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    An expert eyes the first drafts of state redistricting plan

    The four plans are plainly partisan, with Slade Gorton's the most radical and Dean Foster's the most persuasive.

    Sen. Slade Gorton's proposed re-districting plan: no room in the 11th for Hasegawa

    Sen. Slade Gorton's proposed re-districting plan: no room in the 11th for Hasegawa Washington State Redistricting Committee

    Washington's current nine Congressional districts

    Washington's current nine Congressional districts Washington Secretary of State

    The Washington redistricting commission has released eight partisan plans (four congressional and four legislative), reflecting the preferences of the four legislative caucuses in Olympia. The commissioners are: Slade Gorton for the Republicans in the Senate, Tim Ceis for the Democratic Senate, Tom Huff for the Republican House, and Dean Foster for the Democratic House.

    Other plans have been submitted by individuals and organizations, usually for part of the state, occasionally for the whole state, and so far, more for congressional districts than for legislative. Besides receiving and evaluating submissions and comments on their plans, the commission will hold a number of hearings around the state.

    The official plans are honestly partisan with no apology, even with some pride in sticking it to the other party.  Likewise the commission honestly admitted that of course it would look out for the interests of their incumbents, euphemistically "respecting representation.”   

    The redistricting commission has done a reasonable job historically and will probably do so this round. Still these plans are clearly partisan, making the necessary compromises a challenge. None, standing alone, is politically feasible. I personally wish the law required that the commission solicit some non=partisan good government plans, as from political science and political geography graduate students

    I’ll comment on the Congressional plans here, and  tackle the legislative plans later. You can study the plans best on the redistricting commission's website.

    Given the population totals for the state and the need for a new, 10th district, one district must cross the “Cascade curtain.” While I think there is some logic in crossing along the Columbia River, with part of Benton County joining the current 3rd, no plan chooses this. Rather three plans  (Huff, Ceis, Foster) use the I-90 corridor to extend the east King and Pierce 8th district eastward to include Chelan and Kittitas or more. Gorton instead, rather bravely, crosses the North Cascades to merge Whatcom, Skagit. Island, and San Juan with Okanogan, Chelan, and Douglas, making it the new 10th district and probably Republican. This is not dead-on-arrival, but unlikely.

    The second critical population  fact, after factoring in a 10th district, is the substantial growth of the minority population. Since it proves fairly easy to create a majority-minority district  from south Seattle through south King county, the pressure to do so is almost overwhelming. The Gorton, Ceis, and Huff plans all do so, as the changed 1st, the 9th, and the new 10th respectively. Foster chooses to keep the 7th as essentially a Seattle district, but in fact, his inner core of districts, 1st, 7th, and 9th, could easily be adjusted to recognize a majority minority districts (I suspect there is such a version). 

    The placement of the new 10th district is the third critical issue.  When I first wrote about the new 10th, I suggested Olympia as the logical base, as it is the largest city in the state without its “own” district. Foster and Ceis, as expected, do make this choice, with a Democratic tilt,  while Huff and Gorton combine Olympia with Kitsap and Tacoma respectively. This promises to be a major point of contention. If the Democrats want this enough, they will have to give way elsewhere. Gorton puts the new 10th as his “northern crossing” district, a long shot, while Huff is the only commissioner  to make the 10th the majority-minority district, which is not implausible.

    Three plans make little change in eastern Washington’s 4th and 5th districts, but Ceis more radically shifts from an east-west alignment to a north-south, perhaps in the hope that such a 5th could conceivably elect a Democrat, though I doubt that would happen.

    As for the 1st and 2nd district, the Democrats preserve the 2nd as much as possible, while Gorton jumbles the whole north radically and Huff realigns the 1st and 2nd to an east west alignment, possibly more Republican.  Similarly the Republican plans for the 3rd  shift it more westerly, the Democrats more northerly, for their respective partisan benefits.

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    Posted Tue, Oct 4, 9:51 a.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks for the overview. Here is the Wikipedia entry, by the way:


    Posted Tue, Oct 4, 2:37 p.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks, Professor Morrill, for your comments on the congressional districting proposals. I'd like to make the case for Senator Gorton's proposed 10th district. First, about 150,000 people from central Washington must be placed in a district with a little over a half million people from western Washington. There are three possibilities: a Gorge district, which has historical precedent; a Snoqualmie Pass district, which three commissioners proposed; and a Stevens Pass district, which Senator Gorton proposed. The Snoqualmie Pass district will be a primarily metropolitan Puget Sound district. The other two would not. The five major Puget Sound counties, King, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston and Kitsap, have slightly less than 60% of the state's population. The rate of growth in the other 34 counties since 1970 has been slightly higher than in the five counties. During those years, Washington has gained two seats, both of which went to Puget Sound. Now we gain a third. Metropolitan Puget Sound has its six congressmen, Larson, Inslee, McDermott, Reichert, Smith and Dicks. The rest of the state with a little over 40% of the population has three, Herrera, Hastings and McMorris. Should a bit less than 60% of the state have seven members of congress and the other over 40% have three? For me, this rules out the Snoqualmie Pass district. With transportation improvements over the last 100 years (then all three members of Congress from Washington were elected at large from the whole state!), the argument of the water level route through the Gorge is much less compelling than it might have been decades ago. We have significant ice storms in the Gorge in the winter, closing both SR 14 and I-84 over in Oregon. My guess is that none of these route will be significantly better than the others in terms of weather closures, but the hilly, curvy, in-the-winter icy SR 14 is not a particularly reliable cross-state winter route. Finally, we should seek the ensure the diversity of our congressional districts. Senator Gorton's proposed tenth district would be the most rural district in the state and it would be number 2 in value of agricultural production after the 4th district. It matches some agricultural central Washington counties with the top two agricultural counties of western Washington, Whatcom and Skagit. It is hard to take the "gargantuan" comment seriously in the face of the fact that all members of congress were elected at large in the whole state during the first 20 years of statehood.


    Posted Tue, Oct 4, 7:36 p.m. Inappropriate

    I live in the 1st now. The 1st is a mixed bag, as-is. Each plan has some major shifts, but I think I favor the Foster map at this point. Moving those parts of Kitsap back to Kitsap makes sense to me.
    I think the potential tolling and natural constraint of the Lake Washingto bridges will need some focus on both north and south ends of 405. It probable makes sense to have north Seattle still with Shoreline and bend that district around the north of the Lake.

    Mr Baker

    Posted Tue, Oct 4, 8:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    I don't understand why most or all plans still use the uppermost Middle Fork Snoqualmie river as a dividing line. The Skykomish - Snoqualmie watershed divide would make much more sense. The bill in Congress now to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in that area is weirdly truncated because of that line (Rick Larsen was unwilling to be part of it, so one side of the upper Middle Fork valley is in, one side out.)

    Posted Wed, Oct 5, 12:48 a.m. Inappropriate

    Snoqualman, I believe that this is used as the boundary because the Census Bureau established it as a census tract boundary some time in the past. There is no good reason not to use the boundary of the Skykomish School District, since the areas between the two boundaries are uninhabited. And the precinct boundaries are required by law to follow congressional and legislative district boundaries, but not school district boundaries. So we have the absurdity of two precincts divided between the school districts up there without it making any practical difference because no one lives in those parts of those precincts. I think there should be one boundary up there, the school district boundary.


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