Tag Archives: Redistricting

Guess what? Redistricting is political.

The (Tacoma) News Tribune’s Peter Callaghan wrote a nearly unimpeachable story (I wrote “nearly” because we journalists are told to shy away from absolutes.) that shows how political the 2012 redistricting process was. Referring to emails the paper obtained through public document requests the story illustrates how involved incumbents were in protecting their turf and how both parties worked to maintain whatever advantages they had or to improve on disadvantages they thought they didn’t.

The local angle comes in two cases. Republicans wanted new Sixth Congressional District boundaries in preparation for the day U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks would retire. The Democrat announced his retirement after the maps were drawn.

Not every opinion was overtly political. Gig Harbor Democratic state Rep. Larry Seaquist asked that Key Peninsula and Bremerton be kept together, saying it “is a much more coherent district for voters. I understand that there is almost no difference in the (Republican/Democrat) ratios.”

Callaghan’s point was that a request like Seaquist’s was only honored if it answered the political demands redistricting commissioners were addressing, too.

” … the emails show that partisan advantage wasn’t just one of the criteria used to draw new legislative and congressional lines. It was the dominant factor. While it is illegal to use public resources for campaign purposes, the once-a-decade redistricting process seems exempt from those laws.”

The state law regarding redistricting stipulates that the “commission’s plan shall not be drawn purposely to favor or discriminate against any political party or group.” How the commission goes about that is having two from each party on the commission. Three have to eventually agree on a plan, which means two from one party and one from the other have to shake hands on a deal. So the process is not non-political, it’s just set up so that the two parties have to work together to get a final deal done.

Fallout from Inslee’s resignation

The announcements from both parties were politically predictable in the wake of Jay Inslee’s decision to quit being a member of Congress for the rest of the year.

“It’s shameful of Congressman Inslee to lie to his constituents and the people of Washington about his intentions,” said WSRP Chairman Kirby Wilbur.

“It was a difficult decision, but what I need to do right now is focus all my attention on talking to people about what’s really important – creating jobs and growing our economy,” said Inslee.

The reaction from traditional allies on the left, however, has not been kind. Joel Connelly at seattlepi.com and Nina Shapiro at SeattleWeekly.com compared his decision to Sarah Palin’s resignation as Alaska governor. There is other precedent for it being a successful move. Neil Abercrombie left Congress to run for governor of Hawaii.

For locals the bigger impact is half of Kitsap County will not have a member of Congress to vote for them for the rest of the year and a few days into 2013. His staff will continue to work to help constituents. I don’t know how much heft is loss when those staff members don’t have a member of Congress.

Some members of the First District will have a member of Congress for the month between election certification and inauguration. Whoever wins the First District race in November will begin serving the district as soon as the election is certified. That new member of Congress however, will be serving in the new boundaries drawn up as part of redistricting. That means about half of all Kitsap residents will still have to wait until Jan. 3, 2013 when the new Sixth District member of Congress is sworn in.

Because of redistricting, it also means that some Washington residents will have two members of Congress, wherever the new First and the old districts overlap. Lucky them, I guess.

Redistricting for the New Year

I’m working on a story about redistricting, so details are coming. Here are some highlights.

The 35th District runs much farther to the south than before, taking in the rural areas around Olympia and Tumwater, running up next to Lacey’s southern border. Commissioner Tom Huff told the (Tacoma) News Tribune Kathy Haigh would have lost in 2010 if the new boundaries would have been in place.

McCormick Woods goes from the 35th to the 26th District.

Parts of Bremerton near Lions Park will shift from the 35th District to the 23rd.

Those are the big changes.

Waiting on legislative redistricting

In today’s story I mentioned that the legislative districts in Kitsap County will appear to remain largely unchanged.

Officially, though, there can be no assumptions about how the boundaries will be drawn until the commission settles its dispute over districts in Eastern Washington. Watching the proceedings on TVW this morning, the dispute is formidable. I would doubt the commission would miss its Jan. 31 deadline, but it’s no small disagreement at play.

Again, the issue is how much different districts in the Yakima area are made up of Hispanic residents. From this side of the mountains the differences don’t seem that large. However, any change has a domino effect, which is why we can’t make assumptions about the districts over here.

We’ll continue to follow the meetings in Olympia. If I were to guess, two commissioners will return to the committee (not today, perhaps) saying they have an agreement. All it will take is one other commissioner to agree and we have a plan.

I wouldn’t expect much change in the Congressional plan, not one that would affect Kitsap County, anyway.

UPDATE: The commissioners talked a lot about changes this morning and there is some fear they may be far apart. Overall, though, I think they’ll get their work down before deadline. In fact, they were supposed to begin an afternoon meeting at 2 p.m., but have delayed it twice by a half hour each time. That could be something as simple as someone stuck somewhere else, but you could also guess that it means that two members primarily responsible for the legislative districts are close to an agreement. We’ll see at 3, unless they delay the start time again.

UPDATE 2: No agreement today (Thursday) and the commissioners scheduled meetings for Saturday and Sunday. They may not need those, but they’re scheduled. They reconvene at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

Bainbridge could join Belfair in Congress

Congressional redistricting appears to be close to a real proposal within the state’s redistricting commission. Slade Gorton and Tim Ceis said they have a proposal ready and will provide drawings at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Don’t be surprised if there is a significant change in what was proposed earlier, but it’s worth noting that all four proposals had the entirety of Kitsap County in District Six, currently represented by Congressman Norm Dicks of Belfair.

Currently the county is pretty much cut in half between the Sixth and First districts, with the Firsties being represented by Congressman Jay Inslee, who wants to be governor. That candidacy was likely what opened the door to combining all of Kitsap into one district. Perhaps it shouldn’t have mattered, but these lines are not completely drawn without consideration for where the incumbent lives.

In California, it appears, efforts to depoliticize the process may have failed this time around, with Democrats figuring out how to game the system while Republicans sat on the sidelines. An extensive ProPublica report tells how.

Though all four proposals initially had the entirety of Kitsap in one district, moving parts in one place requires moving them elsewhere. So some of the county, particularly Bainbridge, could find itself aligned with a Seattle-area district again.

Legislative maps that earlier included a call for uniting Bainbridge with Port Townsend should be out later in the week. The deadline is Saturday, or else it goes to the state Supreme Court.

Last call (tonight) for comments on redistricting of commissioner boundaries

Tonight (10/24/11) at the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, the board will hold a public hearing on three proposed options for redistricting commissioner boundaries. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at the county administration building.

The county’s been working on this for some time. They held information workshops in late September and early October. County officials also met with both parties on the redistricting, which is intended to even out representation within North, South and Central Kitsap commissioner districts, based on 2010 Census data.

Eric Baker, the county’s special projects manager, and his staff have put forth three options, one of which is to do nothing, leave the boundaries as is. The other two options attempt to even out population discrepancies by shifting boundaries between Central (the smallest, population-wise) and North Kitsap (currently with the largest population). Option 3 also adjusts boundaries between Central Kitsap and South Kitsap in the Tiger/Panther/Mission Lake area.

According to Baker, comments on the three proposals have been pretty tame.

“Largely, there has not been a lot of public outcry about these alternatives,” Baker said Monday. “Our alternatives attempted to minimize change where possible, which was appreciated by people who made comments.”

Many people have asked if there will be changes to downtown Bremerton boundaries, which would affect residents of South Kitsap and Central Kitsap districts. The answer, said Baker, is “no.”

The commissioners may but, according to Baker, likely will not adopt one of the three options at tonight’s meeting. More likely, they will consider public input and make their decision by or before the Dec. 1 deadline.

Today’s county redistricting meeting location changed

Due to a broken water main at the Island Lake Community Center, an informational meeting on redistricting of Kitsap County Commissioner district boundaries has been moved to the Silverdale Community Center (A-Frame Off of the Upper Parking Lot), 9729 Silverdale Way NW, Silverdale.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. rather than the originally posted 6 p.m. to ensure time for people to reach the new location.

State law requires the county to adjust the boundaries to roughly equalize the number of residents per district. The county’s board of commissioners will adopt the revised boundaries by the end of 2011. The boundaries become effective in 2012.

One option would be to make no change to the boundaries, which were last adjusted in 2002. The difference between District 1 (“North Kitsap”), the largest district, and District 3 (“Central Kitsap”), which is the smallest, is 6,300 people, which is within allowances of the law, county officials say.

A second option would reduce the difference in population to 1,200. This option would affect residents in the Olympic View area east of Highway 3 and south of Mountain View Road in Central Kitsap.

A third option would result in a population difference of 1,400 and would affect people living in the area east of Silverdale Way and west of Ridgetop Boulevard.

Another information meeting has been set for 6 p.m. Oct. 6 at the county administration building, 619 Division St. in Port Orchard.

For more information, call (360) 337-4495.

All Kitsap to be part of Sixth Congressional District under all plans

All four redistricting commissioners would take all of Kitsap County and make it completely fall within the Sixth Congressional District, moving the First District completely across Puget Sound.

Even though this is the case now, in theory this could change. The commissioners vary drastically on where they put the new Congressional District. Any jockeying of that could, in theory, result in some lines moving.

If Jay Inslee were not running for governor, it’s not likely this would have happened. At least Bainbridge would likely have remained in the First District. Again, politics are not supposed to be part of the equation, but a long time ago it was explained to me that the commission’s first unofficial task is to protect the incumbents.

We’ll post more later.

Gorton conservatizes Kitsap County

The state’s Redistricting Commission is supposed to release later today the different commissioners’ ideas for redistricting the state, but former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton has his out there already. We’ll get to the impact here in a minute. To start, though, he puts the new 10th Congressional District along the state’s norther border from the San Juans to Okanagan.

If Gorton’s proposal were to hold, all of Kitsap County would be in the Sixth Congressional District. AP has seen the other proposals but hasn’t gone into much detail about what would happen here.

Legislatively Gorton’s changes would be significant. The 23rd District would lose Silverdale, but pick up downtown Bremerton and Port Townsend. I suspect Democrats will balk bigtime at that idea, because it creates a strong Democratic district that yes, pretty much guarantees James Olsen will never win a legislative election, but potentially makes the 35th and 26th Legislative Districts more conservative. That could present steeper challenges for Larry Seaquist in the 26th, but even more for Kathy Haigh in the 35th. Haigh’s win in 2010 was razor thin as it was.

I know politics are not supposed to play into the conversation, but don’t expect Democrats to lay down for Gorton’s idea.

When the others come out I’ll see if I can do what I’m doing here, which is laying out a comparative map like you see below.

Bremerton solves redistricting disparity

On Monday we had the story about Bremerton’s redistricting of its nine city council districts, pointing out that the city seemed headed toward a similar situation it had a dozen years ago. In one council election the loser in one district had more votes than the total number of voters in District Four.

In 2002 the council accounted for that and made District Four much bigger than the other districts. As of today District Four has 6,341 resident. The next largest is District Two, with 4,362 residents. District Four now has nearly double the residents as District Eight. Still, with the huge presence of Navy personnel who vote in their home towns, District Four had the lowest turnout.

As was pointed out Monday, the city interpreted existing law to state that it could no longer acknowledge that reality in its redistricting. District Four would have to return to near the same size as other districts. As it turned out the first proposal also left it as the lowest populated district overall, but only by 23.

Bill Eley, the city’s information technology manager, figured out a way to remedy that. The district actually got smaller, but pulled residents from other more participatory districts and gave some of its Navy-heavy neighborhoods to District Seven, which also borders the base and the shipyard.

Eley said District Four will still probably see the lowest turnout, but some of the Navy impact is shared.

It is worth pointing out here that story commented Brandon_R made just this suggestion. I think he and Eley arrived at the same conclusion independently. I asked Eley how he came up with the new idea and his answer didn’t include reading our story.

Election 2012: This may or may not matter

Everything shared here could be considered moot by the end of the year, depending on what the redistricting commission comes up with. If we lose the First Congressional District completely, then this won’t really matter to a Kitsap audience.

Speaking of redistricting, in California 29 of the state’s 53 incumbents were drawn into new districts. A member of congress does not have to live in the district being represented, but it’s usually kind of a good idea.

The point here was to discuss the names of candidates seeking to replace Jay Inslee. According to the Federal Elections Commission, four candidates have filed to run for the First District seat in 2012. Republican James Watkins will try again and is for now the only Republican.

On the Democratic side state Rep. Marko Liias of Edmonds is running, as is Sammamish state Rep. John Goodman and business owner Darshan Rayniyar.

In the Sixth District Republican Jesse Young hopes to improve on his third-place finish in 2010 and will be joined by fellow Republican Robert Sauerwein in a bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks of Belfair.

Redistricting and the peninsula

During the conversation yesterday with state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, I asked him about other whispers he’s hearing down in Olympia about the impact of redistricting.

By the way, I called Sheldon because he has been through two of these before.

Sheldon mentioned that he thinks Brinnon could become part of the 35th District because the area is part of the Mason County Public Utility District.

In years past there have been conversations about extending the 23rd District into Jefferson County. I don’t think it has been seriously considered by the group of redistricting commissioners, but there is some sentiment that Port Townsend is a good match with Bainbridge Island. Geographically it is a stretch.

What may make more sense to some is linking Bainbridge to a district in Seattle. Still, not very likely, and one commenter on the story thought the notion ridiculous.

I read our stories from 1991 and 2001 and in both cases there was a large group who thought Kitsap should only have two legislative districts. I’m not sure why that would be better politically for this area. At first glance it does seem like more is better. Bremerton itself is represented by nine different legislators, even though not one legislator is actually from Bremerton.

One of the impacts of redistricting worth watching is that 35th District swing. The district will still likely take in all of Mason County. It’s the fringes that are worth taking notice of.

The reason I believe we are more likely to lose the 35th District, or at least part of it, is because of where the incumbents live. Sheldon (Potlatch) and state Rep. Kathy Haigh (Shelton) both are in Mason County. Fred Finn lives near Olympia in Thurston County.

Several months ago I did another story on redistrictings and spoke with the man many agree is the state’s foremost expert on the subject, Dick Morrill. By e-mail he told me, “The commission’s first unwritten rule is to protect incumbents.”

So you would think, assuming what Morrill said is true, that the 35th District’s emphasis in the redistricting plan would favor Thurston County over Kitsap. I don’t know specifically where the population growth has happened in Thurston County, so it could be that the 35th won’t change much at all. Sheldon said he thought not many incumbents will find themselves in a new district.

Sheldon also said state Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, is considering running for Congress should Jay Inslee run for governor, as practically everyone is assuming. What isn’t so clear, however, is what district Liias will live once redistricting is done. If Inslee does announce he’s running for governor, there’s no incumbent to protect, so the First Congressional District could see wild swings.

This again goes to the idea that all of Kitsap County could be in one congressional district represented by Norm Dicks. Imagine that. And if Bainbridge were lumped with Seattle legislatively, we could have 12 legislators representing the county.

Here’s a cliche for you: The possibilities are endless. Actually, they’re not. They pretty much range from Kitsap having one or two members of Congress and two-four legislative districts. That’s not exactly endless, is it.

Census Says: One More Washington District

Washington is getting a 10th congressional district, which will likely be placed somewhere in Western Washington. We’re planning on having a story on the issue posted online later today and running tomorrow in print. We have also written about this before, suggesting that while the state might gain a member of Congress, Kitsap County could feasibly lose one of its two.

In the meantime, you can read the press release that follows from the Secretary of State’s office.
Continue reading

Brian Baird Could Be Angling for First District Congressional Seat

The future of congressional representation for this area could see major changes, thanks in part to redistricting and Bainbridge Island Democrat U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee’s political ambitions.

This one got away from me when it first came out. Les Blumenthal with McClatchey wrote a story headlined, “Packing up after loss, Democrat Baird spares no one criticism.” I packed it away in the “B” file as in to BE read later. The story is about soon-to-be former U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver.

What I missed was this gem:

He also hints that his political career may not be over, even though he decided not to seek a seventh term in order to spend more time with his twin 5-year-olds.

Baird has roughly $450,000 in his campaign account. He can’t keep it personally, but can donate it to charity or other campaigns. There’s one other alternative.

“I could use it for another race,” said Baird.

Baird is moving to Edmonds, Wash., in the 1st Congressional District north and east of Lake Washington currently represented by Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee. If Inslee were to run for governor in 2012 as many expect, the congressional seat would be open.

You’ve got everything (Inslee rumors and a suspected successor) in there except redistricting, as in new congressional boundaries being drawn thanks to the 2010 Census. Baird moving to Edmonds is a different kind of redistricting.

You might recall the earlier post where it was speculated that the entirety of Kitsap might become part of the 6th Congressional District. This obviously becomes easier to do if Inslee does run for governor, because it would reduce any political machinations aimed at keeping Bainbridge Island in the 1st. It might not stop it completely, because I do think Kitsap officials like being able to lobby two members of Congress. It is questionable, however, how much political muscle this county has in the allocation of congressional seats.

A Theory on Redistricting

Dick Morrill at Crosscut makes the case that Olympia is the most likely central location for the next congressional district Washington is likely to get as a result of the Census. If his postulation is correct, that has huge implications for us.

Morrill writes:

The new Tenth, with Lewis, Pacific, Wahkiakum, and Thurston counties on its south, would need to add the Olympic peninsula counties of Clallam, Jefferson, Mason, and Grays Harbor, plus 80,000 or so, probably from Pierce County rather than from Kitsap.

Some of that territory is currently in the Sixth Congressional District. So Morrill writes:

The Sixth (Democrat Norm Dicks), having lost the peninsula counties, might logically combine most (or all) of Kitsap and western Pierce, including Tacoma.

It is worth noting that these theoretical maps contain the possibility that both of our current members of Congress would be in new districts. Norm Dicks, whose official residence is in Belfair, would be part of the new 10th. Jay Inslee would become part of the Sixth if all of Kitsap was pushed. Political realities, as Morrill acknowledges, would seem to come into play here, unless Dicks and Inslee were to suggest that where they live should not play into the redistricting conversation. That could happen, I suppose, if Inslee is intent on running for governor and Dicks decides to retire. Otherwise, I don’t see it. And I would also think there would be some resistance within Kitsap County about losing one of two members of Congress with whom to ask for favors.

Washington Inches Closer (Barely) to Getting a 10th Congressional District

David Ammons in the Secretary of State’s office is reporting that Washington’s odds of picking up another congressional seat following the 2010 Census are still good. Official numbers won’t be out for another three months, but a company analyzing data from Census Bureau estimates has Washington picking up seat number 434 out of 435.

The bigger story may be that it looks like the realignment would benefit Republicans more than Democrats.

Assuming voting in congressional districts generally follow the overall movement of their states, if the GOP doesn’t take over the House in 2010, realignment could make it easier in 2012.

States picking up one congressional representative are Washington, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and` Utah. Florida would get two and Texas four. New York and Ohio would each lose two and Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania would lose one.

Of course, states do not vote in unison and redistricting/gerrymandering plays a role, as does the general mood of the country. Still, at least on the surface this looks like a Republican win.