A Brown Bag Lunch Community Reportback:
Yakima, Redistricting & the WA Voting Rights Act
Saturday, April 28
Yakima Convention Center (during the Yakima County Democrats Convention)
Bring your own lunch!
Fe Lopez, Latino Bar Association of WA
David Perez, Seattle U Korematsu Law Center
Cherry Cayabyab, Win\Win Network
Moderator: Mary Stephenson, Chair – Yakima County Democrats
People of color, especially Latinos, in Yakima have made significant political gains through the redistricting process. Learn about the opportunities and impacts in the 15th legislative district, WA’s first Latino majority (55%) legislative district in Yakima and the WA Voting Rights Act.
In Washington State, communities of color now have unique opportunities for civic empowerment and fair representation created by the once-a-decade Census and subsequent redistricting process. Statewide, about one out of every four residents identifies as non-white. In Yakima County, people of color, predominantly Latino, are officially the majority. These growing numbers have not been matched by a significant increase in political representation.
Underlying structural aspects of our electoral system can create barriers to full representation. One of these structural aspects is the way we create and set rules for political boundaries. Redistricting, as it is practiced in most of the U.S., is an exercise of drawing lines to favor one group/individual over another. Often, this means splitting up a geographic concentration of people of color into several districts to shrink its effective political base. Rules such as at-large voting for local office can often disadvantage candidates of color. For example, the City of Yakima has never elected a Latino to city council, yet Latinos are now over 40% of the residents. New legislations such as the WA Voting Rights Act may address these issues.
Please join us at this event to discuss these important issues and how you can take action! This is a free community event. Snacks and refreshments provided.
Please RSVP to email@example.com.
Dear Community Members,
The WA Voting Rights Act (HB2612 | SB6381) will ensure that all communities have an equal opportunity for their vote to count. Without a WVRA, many communities are without representation in local government. The WVRA will increase civic engagement in minority communities and restore faith in representative government. After the passage of the California Voting Rights Act in 2001, California saw an increase in minority representation in local elected office, which corresponded with an increase in voter registration and turnout in the same communities. Read more at http://fairrepresentationwa.org/wvra/.
The WVRA has strong endorsements from Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA 1), Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA 9), and King County Council Members Bob Ferguson and Larry Gossett.
It is essential that supporters make calls/send e-mails ASAP to their lawmakers to support the WA Voting Rights Act of 2012, we have until Tuesday (Feb 14) at 5:00pm to pass the bill out of the House!
Please contact the following key legislators:
Message – Please support HB2612, the Washington Voting Rights Act to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity for their vote to count. (VRA Talking Points attached).
Kagi (32 – Shoreline) – 360-786-7910 ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Hansen (23 – Bainbridge Island) – 360-786-7842 ; email@example.com
Moeller (49 – Vancouver) – 360-786-7872 ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Takko (19 – Pacific County) – 360-786-7806 ; email@example.com
Kelley (28 – Lakewood/University Place) – 360-786-7890 ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Blake (19 – Pacific County) – 360-786-7870 ; email@example.com
Kirby (29 – Tacoma) – 360-786-7996 ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Green (28 – Lakewood/University Place) – 360-786-7958 ; email@example.com
Speaker Chopp (43 – Capitol Hill/U-District) – 360-786-7920 ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sullivan (47 – Kent/Auburn/Covington/Black Diamond) – 360-786-7858; email@example.com@leg.wa.gov
Contact: Bob Ferguson 206-296-1001 / Larry Gossett 206-296-1002
February 6, 2012
Ferguson, Gossett introduce measure supporting
Washington Voting Rights Act of 2012
Urge state legislature to adopt law requiring equal opportunity in elections
Metropolitan King County Councilmembers Bob Ferguson and Larry Gossett today introduced a motion in support of the Washington Voting Rights Act of 2012, legislation currently under consideration by the state legislature.
“The Washington Voting Rights Act will strengthen our democracy here in King County and across our state,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, who oversees the county elections department as Chair of the Council’s Government Accountability, Oversight, and Financial Performance Committee. “Ensuring an equal opportunity to participate in the political process is fundamental to the integrity of our system of government.”
“Voting is essential to active participation in our democracy. The denial of the right to vote in our elections has disproportionately affected immigrants and communities of color,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “The Washington Voting Rights Act of 2012 is an important step to increasing the voter turnout in these communities across the state.”
If approved by the state legislature, the law will enhance existing protections under the federal Voting Rights Act. Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment’s prohibition against states denying citizens the right to vote based on race or color.
The Washington Voting Rights Act would promote equal representation by helping ensure at-large elections and district-based elections could not be maintained in a manner that dilutes the votes of a protected class. Under the law, voters could challenge local elections in state courts when a protected class is denied an equal opportunity to elect candidates of its choice or an equal opportunity to influence the outcome of an election.
The Washington Voting Rights Act is modeled after a similar law passed in California in 2002. Since California adopted its measure, there has been a significant increase in minority representation in local elected offices and in civic participation among minority communities.
Read more about this legislation on the King County Council’s LEGISEARCH system at
http://mkcclegisearch.kingcounty.gov and type in “2012-0069”
Follow the Council’s deliberations through Twitter by signing up through the
King County Council Web site at:
Watch all Council proceedings held in chambers LIVE on King County TV
on Comcast and Broadstripe Cable on channel 22, or online at:
# # #
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 3, 2012
Contact: David Perez , firstname.lastname@example.org, 206.618.4293
Jay Inslee, Adam Smith, and Bob Ferguson Endorse the Washington Voting Rights Act
OLYMPIA, Washington — The Washington Voting Rights Act of 2012 (HB 2612 / SB 6381) received a big boost today with three strong endorsements from Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA 1), Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA 9), and King County Council Member Bob Ferguson.
The Washington Voting Rights Act would provide voters in Washington State with the ability to challenge voting systems that have left entire communities with no voice in our political process. In particular, some at-large electoral systems make it nearly impossible for certain communities to get political representation. Under the Washington Voting Rights Act, voters can challenge these at-large systems when they can prove “racially polarized voting.” The Seattle Times Editorial Board called the remedy of providing for district-based elections “a solid avenue for voter redress.”
“I am proud to support the Washington State Voting Rights Act of 2012. “’One Person, One Vote’ is at the heart of our democracy,” said Congressman Adam Smith in a statement. “This meaningful legislation would insure that racial minorities have the best possible opportunity to be heard and be well represented by their elected officials, just like all other Washingtonians. This is a simple matter of equality that ensures that everyone has the same opportunities guaranteed in the Federal Voting Rights Act. This piece of legislation will help ensure this happens here in Washington State.”
Gubernatorial candidate, Jay Inslee, agrees. “I applaud the efforts of the broad coalition supporting the Washington Voting Rights Act and am proud to support this important legislation. Our democracy is dependent on robust participation of both the electorate and those willing to serve. Any healthy democracy must seek diversity and equitable representation for all. In instances where it is clear that opportunity is being repressed, there must be a process for righting that wrong. That’s why, in 2006, I voted for a 25 year extension of expiring portions of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act and why I support efforts to promote equality and democracy at the local and state level as well–including the Washington Voting Rights Act.”
“I am pleased to support the Washington Voting Rights Act,” said Bob Ferguson, candidate for Attorney General, in a statement. “This legislation will affirm Washington State’s commitment to the principles of democracy, fairness, and equal representation. It will provide a set of tools to help us build an even stronger democracy in Washington State.”
The Washington Voting Rights Act has already passed through committees in both the House and Senate and is currently in the each house’s Rules Committee. The prime sponsor of HB2612 is Representative Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney (D-46), while Senator Margarita Prentice (D-11) is the prime sponsor of SB6381.
For more information and to endorse the WA Voting Rights Act, visit fairrepresentationwa.org/wvra. Support for the bill is led by the Fred Korematsu Center for Law & Equality, OneAmerica Votes, and Win-Win Action via United for Fair Representation – a coalition of organizations and community leaders that formed to educate and encourage our communities to participate in the democratic process to achieve fair representation.
Here’s a great Seattle Times editorial supporting the WA Voting Rights Act! We encourage you to submit positive comment!
In addition, the WVRA bill was voted out the Senate committee today and the House committee earlier this week! Please stay tuned on how to take action to support its passage!
Time for Washington to have a Voting Rights Act
Proposals in the Washington Legislature would foster important conversations about why the state’s minority groups, Hispanics in particular, are badly underrepresented in local government positions.
HISPANICS are the fastest-growing demographic in Washington state yet they are hugely underrepre-sented in local elected offices. This raises questions about equal opportunity guaranteed in the federal Voting Rights Act.
It also garnered the attention of some state lawmakers who have proposed bills that would allow voters to challenge local elections where qualified minority candidates are shut out. Successful challenges may spur a judge to compel a shift from at-large voting — where a city elects its officials across the city — to a district-based format that draws lines to increase minority voter influence.
This is a solid avenue for voter redress. It broadens a conversation about political representation hastened by stark numbers.
In 10 counties across Central Washington, Latinos make up more than 33 percent of the total population, yet they hold fewer than 4 percent of the local elected offices. Yakima is 41 percent Hispanic, but has never elected a Hispanic to the City Council. Adams and Franklin counties are more than 50 percent Hispanic yet in 2009 had only eight Hispanic elected officials out of 247 local government positions.
Local political elements may explain some of the dramatic underrepresentation — for example, voter apathy and immigrants who cannot vote. But patterns of racially polarized voting have been singled out as a particular culprit.
Analyses of voting patterns point to a racial phenomenon in voting. In some communities, heavily white precincts vote for white candidates and black precincts vote for black candidates. Yakima’s data shows that, election after election, Latino voters favor Latino candidates, and white voters strongly tend to vote against the Latino candidates.
That’s racially polarized voting. Courts have ruled this practice is a problem only if it blocks one racial group from electing one of its own.
The legislation would create an appropriately high bar for filing suit, decreasing the likelihood of frivolous challenges. It is unlikely someone could successfully argue that voting in Seattle is a civil-rights problem. That argument would be quickly refuted by the faces of color on the City Council, School Board and the Seattle Port Commission.
That isn’t always the case east of the Cascade Mountains. There, a dearth of Latinos elected to oversee local parks, schools, fire departments or water and land resources flies in the face of a representative democracy. Civic résumés are built at the local level — city council, school board, water commission or fire district — making it more critical to have fairness begin there.
Washington’s effort is modeled after the 2002 California Voting Rights Act. It is good policy and ought to prevail.
For more information, visit http://fairrepresentationwa.org/wvra/
RSVP now to email@example.com or via Facebook! This is a free community event.
People of color have made significant political gains through the redistricting process. Learn about…
- WA’s first people of color majority Congressional District (the 9th CD).
- Four people of color majority legislative districts; including WA’s first Latino majority legislative district in Yakima (15th LD).
- We will also launch our legislative campaign for the WA Voting Rights Act of 2012. Learn more about this important legislation and how to support its passage.
Hosts: Seattle U Law, Fred Korematsu Center for Law & Equality and United for Fair Representation Coalition: Win/Win Network, Asian Pacific Americans for Civic Empowerment (APACE), Latina/o Bar Association of WA, Black PAC, Tacoma Black Collective, One America, Latino Community Fund, Latino PAC
RSVP now to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook!
Save the date for Monday, January 30! Feel free to distribute widely.
The United for Fair Representation Coalition invites you to a Community Reportback and Celebration highlighting:
- WA’s first majority-minority Congressional District (the 9th CD).
- Four majority-minority legislative districts; including WA’s first Latino majority legislative district in Yakima (15th LD).
- The introduction of redistricting related state legislation, the WA Voting Rights Act of 2012.
Save the date! This is a free community event.
Monday, Jan 30 from 6pm-8pm.
Please RSVP to email@example.com or via Facebook.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 2, 2012
Contact: Cherry Cayabyab
Minorities now majority in 9th congressional district and four legislative districts; including Latino majority in 15th legislative district
SEATTLE, Washington — WA minorities made great strides this decennial round of state redistricting. WA has gained its first majority-minority congressional district and Latino majority legislative district. The new 9th congressional district is just over one half minority at 50.3% and encompasses Southeast Seattle, Bellevue, North Tacoma and South King County. The final redistricting plan adopted on Jan 1st also establishes four majority-minority legislative districts – the 15th in Yakima county and 11th, 33rd and 37th in south King county.
WA’s gain of a new 10th congressional district can be attributed to the growth of minorities, now one fourth of the statewide population. The WA Redistricting Commission heard unprecedented testimony from communities of color throughout the state about the need for the new district lines to reflect the growth of communities of color over the last decade. United for Fair Representation, a coalition established to educate and encourage communities of color to be involved in the redistricting process, turned out 600 Unity Map supporters to almost all 18 redistricting forums around the state.
“Thanks to the commission for taking into account the changing demographics of the state, and for offering people of color in WA the opportunity for meaningful participation in the democratic process.“ said Celestino Gallegos, board member at Latino Community Fund.
The 15th legislative district will serve an unprecedented 54.6% Latino majority population. Just how much of a Latino majority the 15th should get was a point of contention among redistricting commissioners. In the end, a bipartisan compromise put the City of Yakima’s Latino populated southeast and north central neighborhoods in the 14th legislative district. “While we are disappointed that backroom politics resulted in separating Latinos in southeast Yakima city from those in the lower Yakima valley, we will continue to fight for fair representation for all Latinos in Yakima and will maximize political opportunities in our new Latino majority legislative district,” said Lorena Gonzalez, vice president of One America.
The coalition also requested that the 29th legislative district reflect Tacoma’s growing communities of color. With a 48% minority population, the 29th should become a majority-minority legislative district in the next decade. Commissioners did not create a Latino majority 9th legislative district in Tri-Cities as requested by advocates. They did, however, include Yakima and Tri-Cities together in the 4th Congressional District, which now holds a fast-growing minority population at 42.8%.
“The work of our coalition, United for Fair Representation, is far from over. Engaging in the redistricting process is critical but not sufficient to ensure that everyone has fair representation. In the upcoming legislative session, we will be advocating for the passage of the WA State Voting Rights Act. This historic piece of legislation will be an important legal tool for ensuring fair representation for all”, said George Cheung, executive director at the Win Win Network.
“Let the record show that in 2011 we stood up – Black, Brown, Asian Pacific Islander, Native Americans, more – and said in one unified voice that we will be represented, our voices will be heard, we will never again be taken for granted and we WILL fully participate in the electoral process”, said Nate Miles, Fair Representation coalition member. “Now is the best opportunity for people of color to register and turn out to vote. Electoral races in these majority-minority districts are especially where our votes will have an impact.”
Tuesday August 9th 2011, 6:30PM
The Washington State Redistricting Commission meets in South Seattle to take public testimony on redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative district boundaries.
Today, Washington’s redistricting commission plans to release its final report about the state’s new political maps. One slice of the map reflects an historic development in state politics. That’s the creation of a congressional district where minorities make up the majority of the population. Minority groups in the Puget Sound area hope it’ll give them more representation in Congress. KUOW’s Liz Jones takes us on a tour of this diverse community and brand new voting bloc.
Ok, so this tour is super short. It begins and ends at a shopping plaza in Seattle’s south end, near the Othello light–rail station. My guide is Cherry Cayabyab. She lives just down the street.
Cayabyab: “You’ve got a lot of Vietnamese–owned businesses. You’ve got restaurants, bakeries, cafes. You can see the Cajun Crawfish.”
She describes the Cajun Crawfish as Southern food with a Vietnamese twist.
Cayabyab: “And right across the street you have a Mexican cafe and a Somali cafe.”
This densely packed strip mall radiates the cultural diversity of this area. It’s a microcosm of the state’s new 9th Congressional District, and minorities are clearly the majority here. Store signs beckon in various languages. And the plaza is bustling with Asians, Latinos and East Africans.
Liz Jones: “It looks really busy. The parking lot is pretty much completely full.”
Cayabyab: “This is actually relatively tame.”
Cayabyab is also a community organizer for the nonprofit, United for Fair Representation. It sprang up after the 2010 census. The data showed Washington’s population growth earned it a new congressional seat. And the group wanted the state’s new political map to include a majority–minority district.
This one just barely qualifies, with a minority population of 50.3 percent. Although, that does not necessarily mean that a majority of registered voters are minorities.
As we weave around the busses and light rail in a rainstorm, Cayabyab says even a tiny majority matters. She hopes it’ll tell minority voters here that their turnout can make a difference.
Cayabyab: “There is opportunity to elect somebody that looks like them, and I think that’s exciting. And that gives hope. That gives promise that the issues that we face will be addressed.”
Liz Jones: “So you think this will encourage people to get out and vote more?”
Cayabyab: “Oh definitely.”
Cayabyab says key issues for this community include affordable housing, economic development and comprehensive immigration reform.
The redrawn 9th stretches from Bellevue to northeast Tacoma. It includes South Seattle, Tukwila, Kent and Federal Way. Cayabyab admits this plan for the majority–minority district falls short of the one they wanted.
Cayabyab: “We wanted it to be called the new 10th Congressional District with an open seat. But it got called the 9th Congressional District and with Adam Smith as the incumbent.”
Liz Jones: “Why did you want an open seat?”
Cayabyab: “We wanted to have the opportunity to elect a person of color.”
Cayabyab admits that’s now a longshot, at least for a while. Matt Barreto agrees. He teaches political science at the University of Washington.
Barreto: “So I think it’ll take many years, perhaps until the retirement of Mr. Smith before this becomes a minority seat. This is going to be very difficult for any up–and–comers to challenge a US congressman.”
Adam Smith has represented this solidly Democratic district for 15 years. He’s seeking another term in November. But this time around, he may face a Democratic challenger. Seattle City Councilman Bruce Harrell, who’s half black and half Asian, is entertaining the idea.
For now, however, Barreto considers the 9th a majority–minority district in name only. And he questions whether the redistricting commission made the best call for this community.
Barreto: “If they truly believed in minority representation, they would’ve created a majority–minority district that was open. But the fact that they put it in a seat with an incumbent, and one that’s likely to win, means that the majority–minority district does not really provide an opportunity for those minority voters.”
Back at the shopping plaza, Cayabyab and I duck out of the rain into a Somali cafe. About 20 men are seated around picnic–style tables, shouting comments at each other and at the TV. Owner Ali Hagi is behind the counter.
Jones: “You’re pretty busy in here. It’s full.”
Hagi: “Yes, it’s too busy. They watch the football game, the basketball game, all the games here.”
Near the door, we chat with a customer named Abuu Bakar Ali. To him, it would make a difference to have a person of color represent him Congress.
Bakar Ali: “Because they know our culture, they know what we need, they know our perspective. They can be a role model. Yes, of course.”
Yet others I meet in the plaza say a politician’s skin color doesn’t matter. They’ll vote for the person who works hardest for this community.
Back where we started, community organizer Cherry Cayabyab wraps up our three–block mini tour. Her work ahead is to try to leverage the voting power in this new district. That includes putting pressure on Representative Adam Smith to listen and respond to this community’s needs.
Cayabyab: “He has to fight, you know, to win our support and he has to show us that he’ll represent us fairly and accountably.”
Jones: “When you say fight for your support, that implies to me that he doesn’t have it currently.”
Cayabyab: “Not necessarily, we’ll have to see. Actions speak louder than words.”
Cayabyab suggests Smith will need to spend more time in the diverse neighborhoods of the new 9th, in places like this plaza, and build relationships.
Democratic commissioner Tim Ceis, who agreed to the plan with Republican counterpart Slade Gorton, said he expected that district to be the one to watch. Several candidates have already lined up to campaign for the open seat.
“I tend to think it’s a swing Democratic district,” Ceis said. “I’m sure Mr. Gorton thinks it’s a swing Republican district.”
The map essentially leaves four comfortably Republican districts – the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th – and five comfortably Democratic ones along the I-5 corridor from Olympia to Bellingham and on the Olympic Peninsula. All incumbents would remain living in the districts they represent, although thousands of voters would be living under new representation.
By centering the new 10th District around Olympia, negotiators have opened a lane for Denny Heck, a former chief of staff to ex-Gov. Booth Gardner who immediately announced his campaign for the seat with the backing of state Democrats. That district also stretches up to parts of Tacoma.
Ceis and Gorton said they both sought to create a competitive seat using different criteria – from voting patterns to geography to demographic trends. They both had initially proposed ways that their parties would claim an extra seat under the new maps.
“I didn’t get everything I wanted,” Gorton said.
“What a coincidence. Neither did I,” Ceis responded.
The 9th District, currently represented by Rep. Adam Smith, will become the state’s first majority-minority district because it is slightly less than 50 percent white, mainly due to large blocs of Asians and blacks. It covers areas south and east of Seattle, including Federal Way, Renton and Bellevue.
Negotiators said they created the minority district after repeatedly hearing the request in public testimony.
Redistricting plans are coming together around the country, in a process that takes place every 10 years to ensure each district has a balanced population.
Washington’s commission is comprised of two Republican appointees and two Democratic appointees. At least three of them must agree on the maps to approve them by a New Year’s Day deadline, and the two commissioners who were not involved in the congressional process did not immediately share their thoughts on the proposal Thursday.
If the panel fails to reach an agreement, the state Supreme Court will take control of the process. If the commission does reach an agreement, the Legislature will have an opportunity to make minor modifications.
Two of the members focused on legislative boundaries previously agreed to details on districts in western Washington that would displace five incumbent lawmakers. They are still working on the eastern side of the state.