OLYMPIA – The special commission charged with redrawing Washington’s congressional and legislative boundaries came up with four very different plans for each Tuesday. But each gives more attention to placing minority populations together in districts, and possibly increasing their political influence.
Three of the four proposals for new congressional boundaries have a “majority-minority” district, in which racial and ethnic minorities make up more than 50 percent of the population. The fourth has two districts where racial and ethnic minorities are more than 40 percent of the population.
Minority rights advocates praised the commission for heeding calls for a majority-minority district.
“Seeing the proposed maps gives me great hope,” Robert Manaway of Des Moines, pastor of the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, said. “My only hope for this commission is that there is a sincere follow through.”
“Today I feel extremely proud. We believe you have taken our voices seriously,” said Yemane Gebremicael of Seattle, who said he came to the United States from Ethiopia 18 years ago.
But Marianne Lincoln of Spanaway argued against a majority-minority district, saying it would dilute the progressive vote in surrounding districts.
The commission must now reconcile the differences in maps drawn independently by the four voting commissioners. The congressional maps differ on many points, including where to put the state’s new congressional district, awarded because of population growth recorded in the 2010 Census. The number of legislative districts stays the same, and all maps force some incumbents into a new district.
In adjusting the congressional districts for population growth, three commissioners would keep Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District relatively close to its present configuration, moving west from the Idaho border and from Canada to Oregon. But one suggests drawing the southern boundary of the 5th District at the Spokane-Whitman County line, taking in portions of Grant and Douglas counties, and moving southeastern counties into a district that includes the Tri-Cities and Yakima.
The proposals vary greatly on Central Washington’s 4th Congressional District, which has seen some of the state’s greatest population growth, as well as a rapid increase in Hispanic residents.
The commission will accept comments on the proposals for a month while the four commissioners study each others’ plans. The panel resumes public hearings Oct. 11, with a goal of settling on a single map for congressional districts and a single map for legislative districts around Nov. 1.
Under state law, at least three of the four commissioners must agree to a single map for each set of districts that is to be submitted to the Legislature in January.