Better know a (Legislative) District

Over the last few months, I’ve written at length — some might say ad nauseum — about Washington’s redistricting process based on the 2010 Census:

A few days after the last of those, upon further review of the newly-drawn map, I wrote a more reflective piece on the outcome of Congressional redistricting in Washington. My conclusion: Skeletor won the battle with Tim Ceis, and it wasn’t even close. For reasons that escape me, I posted that piece only on Peace Tree Farm, resulting in even fewer readers than my wonkery draws here on HA. That was dumb of me, wasn’t it?

Nearly everything in the above-referenced posts concerned Congressional redistricting. Which makes sense, I suppose. Changing the number of districts is always exciting, though of course it’s even more exciting (and much, much bloodier) in states that lose Congressional Districts. You can check with Dennis Kucinich on that. For the record, Washington has never experienced CD subtraction.

But redistricting affects far more than Congress. Many other jurisdictional boundaries have to be changed to account for changing demographics, from school board districts to County Council and beyond. If Seattle elected City Council by district (as it should, IMHO), those borders would have to be redrawn too. With one exception, those lower-level maps are drawn by lower-level governments.

The exception, of course, is the map of Legislative Districts, also drawn by the Redistricting Commission. While the number of LDs in Washington is constitutionally set at 49, their boundaries must be redrawn to take into account population trends over the 10 years since the last Census. LDs that had nearly identical populations in 2000 are no longer equal, and the Commission is mandated to reconstruct the legislative map to reflect those demographic trends.

The Commission had to account for more than just the statewide 14.1% increase. Had every LD added 16,948 residents (average LD population was 120,288 after the 2000 Census and would be 137,236 under this redistricting), we could have kept the old boundaries. But of course, that isn’t what happened. The population of the old 2nd LD increased by 43,337 (36.0%), while the 28th actually lost 754 residents (-0.6%).

I won’t go into the extended process by which the Commission eventually settled on the new map, except to note that it took them until 10:35pm (85 minutes before their deadline) on January 1, 2012 to convey their agreed-upon map to the Legislature. Instead, I thought it might be interesting to examine the changes in LD boundaries. Data geek, and map geek, that I am, I’ve done exactly that — creating maps showing each LD’s old boundaries, its new boundaries, and the two superimposed on each other.

The results of (some of?) my handiwork will appear here on HA soon. The questions I pose to myself — and to my colleagues here, and to the readers of HA — are:

  1. Do I report on the LDs one-by-one or in groups?
  2. Can I report on every single one of the 49 LDs without boring y’all to death?
  3. How ever we decide to do the reports, in what order should they be revealed?

I’ll answer a couple of those questions, at least to start, by writing individually on the Seattle-area LDs with open seats. I plan to begin with the 46th, followed by the 36th and the 11th. Why the 46th? Simple — it has cooler maps than the others. It’s the wow!! factor…

So, if you haven’t nodded off in boredom are drooling in breathless anticipation, stay tuned.


  1. 1

    CH spews:

    The 15th was drawn to be a minority majority district. But they also split the Yakama Reservation in half.

  2. 2


    I’d think the ones that changed the most would probably be the most interesting. I don’t know if there’s a formula for that (most census tracts gained or lost, maybe).

  3. 3



    Quite right. There were quite a few shenanigans in and around Yakima. That, in fact, was the main stumbling block between Commissioners Huff and Foster, which dragged out the deliberations for so long.

    Of course, the 2001 maps were just as gerrymandered cobbled together (but to different ends) as the 2011 ones turned out to be.

  4. 4



    I was thinking “least degree of superimposition”. That’s why I’m beginning with the 46th instead of the 36th or 11th.

    One problem with that is that several Eastern Washington LDs lost large swaths of this lightly-populated territory in exchange for that lightly-populated territory. Looks can be deceiving.

  5. 5

    Michael spews:

    Can I report on every single one of the 49 LDs without boring y’all to death?

    Probably not. I don’t think there’s anyway to make the 26th LD exciting. I know ’cause I live there.

    I’d go with an over view of the whole thing and then look at where there were big changes and maybe some shenanigans going on.

    I don’t remember how the Spokane area turned out, but it was looking stupid for a while.

    I’d like to hear about splitting the Yakima Res in two, that sounds messed up. Maybe there’s someone from the tribe that could do a guest post as well?

  6. 6



    The 26th was one of the least changed LDs of all. In fact, I don’t think it lost even a tiny bit of its 2001 area. The LD added a bit of territory southwest of Port Orchard, and that’s it.

    OTOH, you have the great fortune (at least until next January) to be represented in Olympia by Derek Kilmer. Not that having him represent you in DC will hurt either.

  7. 8

    Tom Fitz spews:

    Speaking as an officially elderly PCO, I’d like to know what’s going to happen to precinct boundaries, esp. in the suburbs. My precinct already takes me the better part of 3 days to leaflet. And yes, I’m now part of the 46th.

    Great topic, looking forward to your posts!

  8. 9



    The situation with precincts is separate from redistricting, though I must say that the way the Commission drew some of the boundaries exacerbated the problem.

    For instance, they drew the new 36th-43rd boundary with little to no regard for the existing precinct borders — splitting Precinct X and Precinct Y instead of placing Precinct X in one LD and Precinct Y in the other. I suppose I’d understand if they’d drawn a straight line or if there were large demographic differences, but the border was still convoluted (just not convoluted along current precinct lines) and the Fremont-Phinney Ridge area is pretty homogeneous.

    I’m certain that happens elsewhere, maybe everywhere. It’s just that I’m very aware of the new line that’s closest to where I live.