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Redistricting panel reaches agreement

Mon., Jan. 2, 2012

Compromise over East Side clears way for vote

OLYMPIA – A redistricting deal struck late Saturday for Eastern Washington legislative districts removed the last big sticking point, and the Washington State Redistricting Commission was moving to wrap up its once-a-decade job late Sunday.

The Eastern Washington compromise struck between Republican commissioner Slade Gorton and Democrat Dean Foster creates new boundaries for the 15th District that make it a majority Latino district, reflecting the demographic realities. The district squares up against county boundaries in east Yakima County, running from east Yakima toward the Benton County line and including the towns of Sunnyside and Grandview.

The map also keeps the 6th District, which wraps around Spokane’s liberal core, as a competitive or swing district, Democratic commissioner Tim Ceis said.

Gorton and Ceis had struck a compromise on a congressional district plan on Tuesday. The commission needed to approve a plan that includes new maps for the state’s 49 legislative and 10 congressional districts by the end of Sunday.

The congressional plan retains Democrats’ edge in five districts, Republicans’ edge in four and reconfigures the 1st District to become a swing district. The plan also puts Olympia and most of Thurston County in the new 10th District, which Washington earned by virtue of its population growth of about 1 million people over the past decade.

The Democrat-leaning 10th District has already drawn candidacies from Democrat Denny Heck of Olympia and Republican Pierce County Council members Dick Muri of Lakewood and Stan Flemming of University Place. Republican David Castillo of Olympia is weighing a bid.

Redistricting is done once a decade to rebalance or equalize the population in after the U.S. census. Washington earned its 9th District in 1991-’92.

Based on the 2010 election results, all state House Democrats now in office would have been elected that year under the new legislative boundaries, according to Foster. Plus, former Rep. Dawn Morrell of Puyallup would have won re-election, Foster said.

Gorton said that by the GOP’s definition of competitive or swing districts, 16 legislative districts are in that class – using a complicated formula based on 10 previous races in 2008 and 2010 where the average party split was between 46 percent and 54 percent.

Gorton said that by Democrats’ measure, 15 are swing. Gorton did not identify which ones meet the test.

At least three of the four voting members of the commission must vote for the plans and send them to the Legislature under terms of a 1983 constitutional amendment that created the bipartisan commission. Lawmakers can only make small changes to the plan but could just let it take effect.

Democrats now control the congressional delegation by a 5 to 4 margin, the state House by 56 to 42, and the state Senate by 27 to 22. Gorton said the final maps awaiting approval leave that pretty much in place.

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