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Ladies and gentlemen, start your Congressional and legislative redistricting engines

Post by Kris Sherman / The News Tribune on Feb. 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm with No Comments »
February 23, 2011 1:37 pm

Now that the U.S. Census figures for Wasington are out, state and local redistricting commissions will get busy drawing new lines for Congressional, legislative and other election districts.

The work will include redrawing Congressional district lines to add a 10th seat to the U.S. House of Representatives delegation from Washington. The state was awarded another seat due to population growth.

The commission also will work on redrawing the state’s 49 legislative districts to rebalance them according to population.

We just got a news release from the state Redistricting Commission on the issue (edited for brevity). It follows:

OLYMPIA – Washington has received the detailed 2010 census data from the U.S. Census Bureau, giving a fuller picture of the robust growth over the past decade that resulted in the state gaining an additional congressional seat, the Washington State Redistricting Commission announced Wednesday.

The block level information will be the basis for redrawing district boundaries in the coming months.

The Census news release is at http://tinyurl.com/4w4tqzj . It includes these population factoids:

Washington’s overall population was pegged at over 6.7 million in December, and a new 10th House district was awarded the state at that time. But state and local governments have been waiting for more detailed local population numbers so that officials can begin redrawing districting boundaries to reflect population growth and shifts over the past 10 years.

The data also include information on race, housing unit data, and population by census blocks, tracts, voting districts, cities, counties and school district.

The five-member citizen Redistricting Commission – two Republicans, two Democrats and a non-voting chairwoman, Lura Powell – will spend the rest of the year drawing 10 new House districts and 49 legislative districts.

This is the third time the commission process has been used since the Legislature and the voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1983. At least three of the four voting members must approve the new maps, and the Legislature may make only minor technical adjustments. The governor does not have a direct role in the process.

“We’re anxious to get started, but our first task as a commission is to incorporate the new population data into our redistricting database and our plan-drawing tools,” Powell said. “At the earliest opportunity, we want interested groups and individuals to be able to access this wealth of information.

“Commissioners are looking forward to listening to the public and we plan to hold a series of public hearings around the state during the upcoming year. We know the public will have good ideas on how to best draw districts of equal population that reflect the requirement of state law, such as taking into account communities of interest.

“This is important work and we intend to do the public’s business openly and fairly.”

The commission will be meeting on March 29 at 10:30 a.m. at a location to be determined.

Beginning in May, a regular monthly meeting will be held on the second Tuesday of each month, beginning at 10:30 a.m. TVW television plans to broadcast the proceedings and the commission will have a web presence.

The data will be available first on the Census website. Special meetings and public hearings will be announced later, and public input will always be welcome, since the desire is to be as transparent and accessible as possible, commissioners said.

The commission must wrap up its work by the end of the year and the report will go to the Legislature by next Jan.9. The plan, including any legislative fine-tuning, will become effective Feb. 8. The first major usage of the new districts will be the August, 2012, state primary and the November General Election of 2012.

Voting members are former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, a former attorney general and House majority leader, and former House budget Chairman Tom Huff, representing the Republicans; and representing the Democrats, Dean Foster, the former Chief Clerk of the House and chief of staff to Gov. Booth Gardner; and Tim Ceis, former Deputy Mayor of Seattle and chief of staff to King County Executive Ron Sims and policy coordinator for Gov. Gary Locke.

The four commissioners chose Lura Powell of Richland as their chair. She is chair of the Board of Trustees of the Washington State Life Sciences Discovery Fund and a former business leader and director of the DOE Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

For More Information:
–For more information on the Census Bureau’s Redistricting Data Program, visit <http://www.census.gov/rdo > and <http://2010.census.gov/news/press-kits/redistricting.html >.

http://tinyurl.com/4kgtvyv

–Please visit <http://2010.census.gov/2010census/data/ > for an interactive map showcasing county-level population change from 1960 to 2010, as well as state-level data on race and Hispanic or Latino origin for 2010.

–The Redistricting Commission’s website is http://www.redistricting.wa.gov/default.htm

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