By Ann Murphy, Jac Archer and Tina Morrision
In Spokane County, we have a historic opportunity. It is not an exaggeration to say that the outcome of the next month will determine our future for generations.
For the first time , Spokane County is going through a redistricting process to switch to a district-based system for electing our county commissioners that ensures constituents get a more responsive government that matches growing populations. The bipartisan Spokane County Redistricting Committee has been hard at work and presented four draft maps to the public that reflect their priorities in creating the five new districts. The final plan is due to the Spokane County Auditor by Oct. 23.
As part of a broad community coalition, we are united in a vision to create five competitive, fair and equitable county commissioner districts and offer the following map which the public can view at spokaneprogress.org/community-redistricting-2/.
Too often, redistricting is ripe for abuse. We have seen “gerrymandering,” a method of distorting representative democracy by allowing officials to select their voters rather than voters to elect their officials. When done for purposes of racial discrimination or to ensure the dominance of one political party, gerrymandering runs counter to equal voting rights.
Everyone’s interests should be represented. For too long, Black people, Indigenous peoples and People of Color (BIPOC) have been mostly excluded from every part of government especially in Spokane County.
That is why we have been working in partnership with BIPOC-led organizations, LGBTQ+ organizations and individuals, and other community-based organizations representing diverse constituents across race, place and class within Spokane to come together and develop this community districting proposal for the consideration of the committee.
No one can just sit back and wait. Our county commissioners hold so much influence over our daily lives and futures, making critical decisions about issues vital to all of us, including public safety, housing, climate change, labor rights and public health. This moment is critically urgent as we navigate the road to recovery from COVID-19.
Our coalition has proposed the following goals for creating five Spokane County Commissioner Districts that will elect their commissioners by district: 1) Increase the representation of BIPOC voters and 2) Create competitive and fair districts so elected officials are responsible to their constituents as we are growing from three to five districts. We all deserve accountable and responsive local leaders.
While considering equal population division, it is critical that we are intentional about considering these two goals if we are serious about equity and equality in creating fair districts. This isn’t about politics. It’s not about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about proportional representation.
In drawing district lines, we ask that the redistricting committee incorporate three principles: First, create truly equitable and competitive districts across the county. Second, use existing boundaries such as the natural boundary of the Spokane River and geographic boundaries including Division Street, North-South Corridor and I-90. Last, connect communities of interest facing growth-related challenges at the edges of urban areas, like where our cities all interface with the Urban Growth Areas and neighboring unincorporated areas. The coalition recommends keeping Cheney, Medical Lake and Airway Heights in one district. In addition, given the population distribution in the county, we support dividing the City of Spokane, where the majority of the county resides, among three out of the five districts. To ensure people have a more direct voice in their government, which was the goal of moving to election by district with five county commissioners, it is critical the districts are drawn this way. Voicing our community’s needs and vision for the districts is critical so our communities are adequately represented. Now is the time for us to shape our future.
You, the reader, can help shape that future. Let the redistricting committee know that you support competitive, fair and equitable County Commissioner Districts in Spokane County.
You can provide input at an upcoming public hearing Oct. 7 at Northern Quest Resort & Casino and a public information meeting Thursday at Cheney Library. All meetings are 5:30-7:30 p.m.
More information on location (with masking and COVID protocols) and virtual participation is available at the redistricting committee’s website: www.redistrictspokaneco.com.
Their website also provides an email portal as well as the email addresses for the committee members for your direct comment. All comments must be received by Oct. 12.
The time to act is now!
Ann Murphy, president, League of Women Voters/Spokane Area. Jac Archer, program coordinator, Spokane Community Against Racism. Tina Morrison, secretary/treasurer, Spokane Regional Labor Council.
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