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.