In news that should be unsurprising to anyone trying to find housing or merge onto Interstate 90 anytime near rush hour, Spokane and Kootenai counties together saw more than 100,000 new residents over the past decade, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday.
Spokane County added more than 68,000 residents since the 2010 count, pushing the population past a half million with 539,339 people. Kootenai County added nearly 33,000 residents, bringing its population total to 171,362 residents.
Kootenai County’s rate of growth, 23.7%, was tops among nearby counties and well above Idaho’s overall rate of 17.3%. Spokane County grew 14.5%, which was close to Washington state’s overall change spanning the past 10 years.
Spokane remained the 4th most populous county in Washington state, behind King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Clark County, just across the border from Portland, Oregon, grew at a faster rate than Spokane and closed its gap as Washington’s 5th largest county.
The growth in Spokane, and Eastern Washington, was dwarfed by an influx of residents west of the Cascades, however. The city of Seattle added more than 100,000 people, and King County as a whole added almost 340,000 residents from 2010.
Such an increase, and the national trend of increasing population away from rural areas and closer to more urban and suburban areas, will almost certainly influence electoral politics in state Legislatures, said Travis Ridout, a professor of government and public policy at Washington State University.
“It means more power for the cities and suburbs, and less power for those rural areas,” Ridout said.
The first proposals of the redrawn districts in Washington will be presented in late September. The six-member Idaho Reapportionment Commission, appointed by Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, is scheduled to hold its first meeting to redraw legislative districts in the Gem State on Sept. 1.
Neither Washington nor Idaho will gain any new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Representation in that chamber of Congress is determined by a formula based on a state’s total population that was written in 1940.
In the next election, Texas will gain two seats in the U.S. House. Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will each gain one. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will each lose a seat.
Locally, the data will be used to draw the five county commissioner districts as required by a revision to state law. A draft Spokane County redistricting plan needs to be published by Aug. 24.
The increase in Spokane County also outpaced projections made by the Washington Office of Financial Management, said Patrick Jones, executive director of the Institute of Public Policy & Analysis at Eastern Washington University. The state estimated Spokane County’s population would be 522,000 in 2020, about 17,000 shy of Tuesday’s count by the census.
“I think this larger number of people explains a couple more things for me that have been somewhat puzzling,” Jones said, including a better explanation why Spokane’s housing situation has become so dire.
Jones said there would likely be several revisions to planning documents based on the population reported by the census. That includes projections of where building can occur in the county, required to be made every five years under the state’s Growth Management Act.
“A lot can change within five years,” Jones said.
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