A new batch of census data released in August shows that demographics in Washington have changed in the past decade. Now, a state agency is working to redraw voting boundaries to align them with the latest information.
The first series of draft maps from the Washington State Redistricting Commission will be released Tuesday, commission communication director Jamie Nixon said.
Each of the four voting commissioners will release their own draft map for the state’s legislative districts on Tuesday. Each legislative district elects one senator and two representatives to serve in Olympia.
Draft maps for the state’s congressional districts will follow on Sept. 28, Nixon said. Each of Washington’s 10 congressional districts elects one representative to the U.S. House. While Washington’s population grew since 2010, it wasn’t enough to add another congressional seat.
The maps will be available at the commission’s website, redistricting.wa.gov. The voting commissioners are April Sims, Paul Graves, Brady Piñero Walkinshaw and Joe Fain.
Why draw new districts?
The data released by the Census Bureau every 10 years show changes in population and community demographics. The state then redraws district boundaries to reflect those changes.
The districts must be made as equal in population as possible, according to the commission’s website. The districts are not supposed to reflect partisan advantage, discriminate against any group, or split cities and other political subdivisions, it said.
Lisa McLean, the redistricting commission’s executive director, said changes in age and diversity were notable in the 2020 Census data released Aug. 12.
The state saw more population growth in older age categories, but Yakima County was among the counties that had the greatest growth of people younger than 18, McLean said at the commission’s Aug. 16 business meeting.
She said changes in data collection gave people more choices for reporting their racial background, including allowing people to select multiple races.
“You can see that diversity in our state,” she said.
In Washington, 40% more of the population identified as Hispanic, 37% more identified as Black, 57% more identified as American Indian, and 55% more identified as Asian, McLean said.
Census data also shows Latinos represent more than half of the population in Yakima County.
The commission uses census data to identify districts where boundaries may need to change. The congressional districts will be adjusted to meet a new population target of 770,000 people in each of the 10 districts, McLean said.
The target population for state legislative districts will be 157,000. Today’s District 14, which includes western Yakima County, had a population of 147,266 in 2020, according to census data. District 15, which includes eastern Yakima County, had a population of 144,666.
District 13, which includes Ellensburg, Moses Lake and a small part of Yakima County, had a population of 150,687. District 16, which includes Walla Walla, Prosser and parts of Kennewick and Pasco, had a population of 147,441.
The maps released in September are not final and commissioners will take the public’s comments into account before making decisions, Nixon said.
The public can submit comments by phone call, email, audio file or video message once the maps are released, he said. People also can comment directly on the map file on the website.
The commission will have public outreach meetings on Oct. 5 for legislative districts and Oct. 9 for congressional districts.
Members of the public can also submit their own maps by using the commission’s online mapping tool.
Three of the four commissioners must agree on a single legislative map and a single congressional map by midnight on Nov. 15, Nixon said.
“It’s a matter of the commissioners getting together and ironing out their differences … and taking into account the public input that they received,” he said.
The two final maps will be passed to the Legislature for consideration.
The Legislature then has 30 days into its 2022 session to make any amendments to the maps. Changes made by the Legislature in the past have been technical, Nixon said, not affecting the overall makeup of the map.
If no amendments are made, the commission’s maps will become law as they were submitted.