‘Obviously partisan’: what lawmakers in southwest Washington say about redistribution
When it comes to their own districts, lawmakers in southwest Washington say they’re not particularly worried. At least not yet.
The redistribution process, which began this month, is redrawing legislative and congressional lines in the state. While changing the lines on the map usually doesn’t electrify voters, the redistribution determines how voters are grouped together and, therefore, who they send to Olympia. It is a ten-year procedure.
It is a process riddled with questions about fairness. Republicans and Democrats each chose two voting members to sit on the Washington State Redistribution Commission. The commission could finalize a map by November 15.
This month, the four commissioners released their first drafts. Receptions from southwest Washington lawmakers ran the gamut and echoed some concerns raised by citizens.
Republican Senate Leader John Braun of Centralia and Senator Ann Rivers, a Republican from La Center, both said they felt the Democrats’ cards were designed to retain power. They said Republicans suggested creating more swing districts than their counterparts, who hold a majority in both the State House and the Senate.
âThey were so openly partisan. I don’t remember a time when there was such partisanship, âRivers said.
The charges of gerrymandering were quickly raised. While Rivers and Braun have directed their comments to districts across the state, southwest Washington is home to several districts that will conduct their own debates.
According to Braun, several districts in southwest Washington have been launched by Republicans “to be more competitive.” This includes the 17th and 18th Districts, both in Clark County, and the 19th District, which stretches from the towns of Longview to Long Beach.
The 20th district of Braun today covers Cowlitz, Lewis and parts of Thurston counties. Some proposals extend it further south into Clark County, but he said he predicted it would actually move further north into Thurston.
âI would like to keep as much of my district as possible,â he said. âI have a relationship with them. I understand their concerns.
How districts deal with suburban areas will be closely examined. The redistribution process aims to provide each district with the same population size. Finding that balance means commissioners will tighten the lines for urban districts and expand the landmass of rural areas.
The 49th Borough, which encompasses Vancouver’s rapidly growing downtown, is likely to shrink. But, for the neighboring 17th and 18th arrondissements, the air currents vary enormously. Some have one or the other narrowing neighborhoods in the city while the others soar into the heavily forested Skamania County. (In Washington, the House and Senate districts follow the same maps. Each district has two members of the State House and one Senator.)
Representative Monica Stonier, a Democrat from Vancouver from the 49th District, said she hoped the final drafts would do a better job of connecting county residents with each other.
âIf I live in a city east of Vancouver and my legislator represents Skamania and east of itâ¦ what can I talk to them as a school board member or as a parent of a child at school? How is that going to matter when most of their experience is out of county? Said Stonier.
Two projects call on the 14th district – covering Klickitat and Yakima counties – to push west and envelop the suburban towns of Clark County, Camas and Washougal. Voters there, who today vote alongside Yacolt, Ridgefield and La Center, would instead vote alongside Goldendale and White Salmon.
Senator Annette Cleveland, also from the 49th, said she would advocate for the 17th arrondissement to represent Camas and Washougal. But she also said she understood the argument for attracting more communities from Columbia River Gorge.
âThe people of the Gorge are very connected to Vancouver and often to the towns of Oregon that are across from them (the Columbia River),â Cleveland said.
Local economies are also a factor. The 14th arrondissement, for example, has many fruit processing factories in Yakima as well as a booming high-tech drone industry in Bingen. Its southern communities reap the financial benefits of the Portlanders traveling down the gorge.
âIncreasingly, our economy is dependent on high-tech industries, which in turn depend on transportation corridors to the Vancouver-Portland area,â Klickitat County resident Rick George wrote to the cutting board on the 26th. July. Vancouver-Portland area. In turn, many residents of the Metro Vancouver-Portland area frequent our county for its many recreational opportunities.
For coastal communities, which often depend on tourism and commerce, Representative Jim Walsh, a Republican from Aberdeen, said it made sense for the 19th District to continue to represent industrial ports. And he opposed a proposal that would move a Cosmopolis paper mill out of his neighborhood.
âIt benefits from being in the 19th with some bigger pulp mills, and it kind of slips on their public policy lobbying,â Walsh said. “You leave him all alone in a new legislative district.”
But the policy will continue. Walsh called the Democrats’ first cards to open only salvos – some of which, in fact, would force him to move if he wanted to continue representing the 19th arrondissement. But he didn’t expect that aspect to reach the final vision.
âRemember: the politics of the end product is infinitely complicated,â Walsh said.
Representative Sharon Wylie, from the 49th District, challenged the Democrats’ proposals to be less competitive. Instead, she said the redistribution process might just show that it is getting harder and harder to be conservative in Washington state.
âThe reality is that our condition is pretty darn blue. Conservative rural areas are becoming less conservative, âWylie said. âTo make neighborhoods more competitive, we really need to gerrymander them. “