What is redistricting?
Every ten years, after the census, we draw new district maps for Congress, the Washington legislature and county councils. These maps show the boundaries of each district. When we redraw the maps every ten years, we change the boundaries so that each district contains the same number of people. This process is called redistricting. The next time redistricting will happen is in 2011.
Why does redistricting matter?
Communities of color are fragmented by district boundaries. For example, the City of Renton, which is now 46% people of color is split among two (the 8th and the 9th) Congressional districts. In Yakima County, where people of color now comprise 52% of the population, the county is split into three (the 13th, 14th and 15th) legislative districts.
District boundaries that split communities of color like this weaken the civic voice of our communities. When communities of color are fragmented, they do not make up a significant portion of any one district. This diminishes their ability to ensure their elected representatives are accountable to addressing their needs.
Who draws the lines?
The WA redistricting commission will draw the maps for the Congressional and State Legislative Districts. County redistricting commissions have been established in various counties, including King and Pierce counties. The commission is constitutionally mandated to adopt the lines by January 1, 2012. In order to help the commission make its decisions, the commission will hold public forums across Washington state and listen to testimony from residents about their communities and neighborhoods.
What factors does the redistricting commission have to follow when drawing the lines?
The criteria for redrawing boundaries are laid out in state and federal law. Voting district boundaries must be drawn to:
• Encompass, as nearly as can be done (or is “practicable”) equal numbers of people.
• Comply with the Voting Rights Act to ensure that minorities have an equal opportunity to elect
representatives of their choice.
• Make sure that parts of a district are not physically separated.
• Make sure that, to the extent possible, boundaries of cities, counties, neighborhoods and communities that have common interests are respected, and their division minimized.
• Make sure they do not favor or discriminate against any incumbent, candidate, or political party.
Check out Resources for additional informational materials about redistricting.