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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

County districts nearly equal in population after latest adjustment

Starting this month, when residents of nine Spokane County precincts call their commissioner, they can call him Al.

Not Todd or Mark.

County Commissioners Mark Richard and Todd Mielke gave parts of their territories to Commissioner Al French under a redistricting plan adopted Dec. 6.

The adjustment, required by population changes from 2000 to 2010, shifted 3,764 constituents from Mielke’s district and 3,362 from Richard’s district – a total of 7,126 – to French.

As a result, the three commissioner districts are now within nine residents of being equal, ranging from 157,070 to 157,079.

“That is just way close,” said Auditor Vicky Dalton. “I was just floored.”

She said it helped that relatively little change was needed.

Mielke’s District 1 and Richard’s District 2 already were nearly equal at 160,834 and 160,434, while French’s District 3 had 149,953. The goal was to give each district 157,074 residents.

Election officials and county commissioners considered three options before settling on one that gives French a large Beacon Hill-area addition that juts into Mielke’s district like an upturned thumb.

Election supervisor Mike McLaughlin said railroad tracks and the North Spokane Corridor freeway made it difficult to divide the area without leaving isolated residential pockets.

“We just couldn’t find really good breaking points in there,” Dalton said. “It was just easier to take the established precincts of 4100 and 4014.”

Elsewhere, several precincts will be divided. The process must be completed by the end of April because next year’s election filing period will be in May.

As much as possible, state law requires boundary adjustments that make districts compact and keep communities together, with dividing lines that are regular and logical. There must be no favoritism among racial groups or political parties.

The three Republican commissioners took a look at which areas voted for or against them individually, and drew mixed conclusions.

Where jurisdictions assign districts to elected officials, state law requires boundaries to be adjusted eight months after new federal census information is received.

In Spokane County, that includes the county, the city of Spokane and 10 school districts: Mead, Central Valley, Cheney, Deer Park, Freeman, Liberty, Medical Lake, West Valley, East Valley and Riverside.

Spokane’s change is complete, and the last of the school districts was wrapping up work this month.