SEATTLE – After winning full or partial control of many state legislatures around the country in 2010, the Republican Party has a built an advantage in the upcoming midterm elections because of its influence redrawing congressional districts, an Associated Press analysis found.
But that edge doesn’t translate to Washington, which is among a handful of states that redraws its congressional districts using a bipartisan commission.
So far, it appears that the task of dividing Washington into Democrat, Republican and competitive districts is working out for most people.
“We’re a bit of anomaly,” said Todd Donovan, a Western Washington University political scientist. The Washington redistricting process is “probably one of the most clean in the country. It has a track record of producing competitive state legislative districts and competitive congressional districts.”
Nationally, gerrymandered districts in 2012 helped Republicans hold on to a 33-seat majority in the House. Nationwide, Democratic candidates for the House received 1.4 million more votes than their GOP opponents, yet Democrats remained in the minority. It was only the second time since World War II that the party receiving the most votes had failed to win a majority of House seats, according to statistics compiled by the House clerk.
After decades of initiatives by the League of Women Voters and court fights challenging legislative-drawn districts, Washington lawmakers created the commission in 1982. A year later, the Washington state Redistricting Commission was made permanent into the state constitution following voter approval. The commission is made up of four representatives picked by the two parties and a nonvoting chair.
Following population growth in the 2010 census, Washington gained one congressional seat for a total of 10. The commission went to work the next year, drafting different maps and traveling the state to hear public testimony. They approved the new map with only two hours to spare before their mandatory deadline. Had they failed to agree on a map, the task of redrawing the political map would have gone to the state Supreme Court.
Currently, Democrats hold six of the 10 congressional seats.