01/19/2011: "Those Who Will Redistrict"
(Secretary Reed introduces Redistricting Commission members (L to R) Tom Huff, Slade Gorton, Dean Foster and Tim Ceis)
Washington’s citizen-driven process of redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative district boundaries is officially launched -and you’re invited to watch and give your ideas to the commission members above.
The four voting members of the citizen Redistricting Commission -two Democrats and two Republicans- were sworn in Tuesday by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen. She exhorted the panel to “operate with the best interests of the people of the great state.”
The commissioners are Republicans Slade Gorton, the former House majority leader, attorney general and three-term U.S. senator, and Tom Huff, the former state House budget chairman; and Democrats Tim Ceis, the former deputy Seattle mayor and former gubernatorial aide, and Dean Foster, the former chief administrator for the state House and chief of staff to Gov. Booth Gardner.
Secretary of State Sam Reed, whose office has housed the redistricting program for the past three years, presided over the swearing-in ceremonies and wished the commission smooth, bipartisan success as they take over the task of drawing the new maps. New districts will be used for the 2012 Primary and beyond.
The new U.S. Census, overseen by our former governor, Gary Locke, now the Commerce Secretary, says we have 6.7 million inhabitants and are one of the faster growing states in America. The state was awarded a new 10th congressional district.
The state and federal constitutions require that after each 10-year Census, the U.S. House seats are reallocated to the states based on population growth or loss relative to the other states. Then boundaries are redrawn so that each congressional and legislative district has equal population.
In 1983, Reed noted, lawmakers and the voters turned that politically thorny task over to a citizen panel, two from each party to reflect the views of the legislative party caucuses. The panel has the rest of the year to draw new maps, with votes of at least three of the four members required. No further approval by the Legislature or governor will be needed.
The commissioners later met in the Senate Rules Room for their first organizational meeting. They briefly discussed appointing a fifth, non-voting member to serve as chair, but did not refer to specific names. All four commissioners praised the citizen commission process as possibly the best in the country, and all predicted good bipartisan cooperation and success.
Washington State's Legislative and Congressional district boundaries are redrawn every 10 years following the United States Census. The Office of the Secretary of State helps the U.S. Census Bureau prepare for the census. It also assists the Washington State Redistricting Commission prepare for redistricting, the process of adjusting district boundaries to reflect changes in population.
The Redistricting Program was formed in the Office of the Secretary of State in summer 2007 and transferred to the Legislature in summer 2010. The Redistricting Program provides detailed maps and data of all 6,600 voting precincts in Washington to the U.S. Census Bureau to facilitate a more accurate census. The Census Bureau uses these precinct lines to compile the population and demographic data gathered in the 2010 Census for each precinct in the state.
The Redistricting Program assembled election-related data by voting precinct for most state ballot measures, and statewide, congressional, and legislative races from 2004 to current day. Because precinct boundaries change over time, the Redistricting Program must also reproduce the precinct boundaries that correspond to past election cycles. This is to ensure the geographic shape of each precinct matches the electoral results for that precinct. This data will be used by the Washington State Redistricting Commission to redraw the state's legislative and congressional district boundaries in 2011.
Redistricting responsibilities transferred to the Washington State Redistricting Commission in January 2011. The Washington State Redistricting Commission is appointed by the Legislature and made up of four voting members and a nonvoting chair.
The Redistricting Commission must present new Legislative and Congressional District boundaries to the Legislature for approval during the 2012 legislative session. The new boundaries will be in effect for the 2012 elections and thereafter. When redistricting is completed, the commission's duties are complete and it disbands. In 2021, a new commission will be appointed to ensure that Washington residents are fairly represented in congress and the state legislature.