BREAKING!!! Congressional Districts a-comin’…

OK, OK … so maybe the story doesn’t quite merit the BREAKING!!! headline. Still, it’s news that will turn out to be big for all Washingtonians, for a decade.

At this afternoon’s meeting of the Washington State Redistricting Commission, it was announced that (at long last) a proposed map of 10 Congressional Districts will be unveiled tomorrow. It’s possible that they’ll even be able to put the new map on the Commission website ahead of time.

We’ve been waiting for another CD iteration for well over three months, since each of the four Commissioners presented his own version way back on September 13. This new proposal was hammered out between the two political heavyweights on the Commission — Tim Ceis (D) and Slade Gorton (R). If those two uber-partisans can agree on a single map, it’s very, very likely that that’ll be the final plan from the WSRC.

I eagerly await the results, so that we can learn the outcomes of two important issues, discussed below.

The easier one is a simple yes-no: Will there be a majority-minority District? As HA readers may recall from my first post here, three of the four Commissioners proposed a CD in which non-Hispanic whites constituted just under 50% of the Census population. Only Democrat Dean Foster omitted such a District.

However, HA readers may also recall from that October 10 post that I have serious reservations about a majority-minority Congressional District in Washington, that in my opinion such a District would not accomplish the goal of fostering diversity among Representatives. I hold that belief for two reasons:

  • Any such District would contain no defined ethnic/racial community with sufficient numbers of voters to dominate the political structure of the District. Majority-minority Districts work when there is a large, homogeneous group within its boundaries — African-Americans in many large cities and in parts of the rural South, Latinos in quite a few cities, etc. The broad range of ethnicities in the South King County area that would form the center of a majority-minority CD makes for marvelous cultural diversity, but it doesn’t engender political power within all (any) of those communities.
  • By far the largest “minority” in such as CD would be precisely the one that creating the District was supposed to work against … non-Hispanic whites. The September plans contained 49.6% (Ceis), 48.9% (Gorton), or 48.5% (Huff) non-Hispanic whites, very, very close to half. In terms of voters, however, non-Hispanic whites would surely constitute a comfortable majority in this “majority-minority” District. The Census counts residents, irrespective of their citizenship, and of course minorities are much more likely to be noncitizens (whether documented or not) than non-Hispanic whites. Also, the proportion of youngsters under the age of 18 is likely to be higher among minorities. For these reasons, I bet non-Hispanic whites would make up 55-60% of the registered voters in a “majority-minority” CD.

The second issue of interest is, to be blunt, Who has bigger balls, Ceis or Gorton?

The boundaries of the new Congressional Districts will play an extremely large role in determining whether Republicans or Democrats are most likely to hold each of those seats in the next five election cycles. Sure, no matter how you draw a Seattle-based District, it’s going to go Democratic. But you could take, say, the core of the current WA-08 and make it strongly Democratic by adding areas to its north and west, and removing Pierce County. Alternatively, the same core could be made into a GOP sure-thing by lopping off its northern parts and taking the new CD across the Cascades. The same sort of phenomenon could take place in many other Districts.

I’d suggest that in a normal election the current Districts break out as 5-2-2 (Dem-GOP-tossup) or 5-3-1, with WA-08 and maybe WA-03 the tossups. How will the 10 new Districts work out … 6-4? 6-3-1? 5-4-1? 4-4-2? The state can be divided “fairly” in many ways, and the outlines of the proposed Congressional District map will go a long way toward assessing the relative enormity of Tim Ceis’s and Slade Gorton’s cojones.

For those interesting in watching the presentation of the new Congressional District map, it’s scheduled for 11:00am tomorrow. You can watch the Commission meeting live by navigating to the Washington State Redistricting Commission site and clicking on the TVW link underneath Attend a meeting by interactive webcast. It may not be compelling television, but it’s a must-see for some of us.


  1. 3


    Hey EL,

    I saw your comment @1 on someone else’s laptop while enjoying a pint. Now I’m back home and will attempt to answer.

    The Legislature does not have to approve the Commission’s plan. Assuming that the Commission produces plans that are supported by at least three of the four Commissioners, the Legislature is only allowed to “tweak” the boundaries, moving no more than 2% of the population into or out of a Commission-designated district. That’s approximately 13,450 people into/out of a Congressional District, 2745 into/out of a Legislative District. On average, there will be 672,454 residents in a CD, 137,236 in an LD, so the tweaks would be pretty small, just nibbles around the edges.

    Not only that — it takes a 2/3 vote in each House of the Legislature to make any of those tweaks. If the Lege can’t put together majorities that large, then the Commission’s plan goes into effect as-is.

    The new districts will have to be in place by March 17, the date of the earliest Republican LD caucuses. It would be better to have them in effect two weeks earlier, when the GOP precinct caucuses take place, since it’s the LD organizations that arrange and operate precinct caucuses. The Democratic precinct caucuses are late, April 15.

  2. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Personally, I think they should draw straight horizontal lines across the map, just like the stripes on the American flag — it’s the patriotic thing to do! — so that Bellingham is in the same CD as Metaline Falls, Walla Walla is in the same CD as Vancouver, and Seattle and Spokane are in the same 2 or 3 CDs. If a Moses Lake Republican is represented by the same congress critter as a North Bend Democrat, that will help bring our state together as a true community.

  3. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @4 Believe me, I’m a partisan hack. Only Roger Rabbit could dream up a redistricting scheme like this and wrap the American flag around it! My biggest beef with Democrats is they don’t copy Republicans enough. We need to be more like them, because you’ve gotta fight fire with fire!

  4. 7


    re 5: The answer you’ll get from most Democrats would be: “Then we’ll be as bad as they are!”

    Oddly enough, when proposing that Democrats try to regain the trust of blue collar males who’ve turned to the GOP out of spite (you’d think every problem in the U.S. was caused by 48 year old white construction workers according to many Democrats),they are very insistent that they will NOT consider this option. Middle aged white men are the cause of all our problems, just like Phil Donahue said.

    That’s stupid. In that way Democrats lose elections.

  5. 8

    rhp6033 spews:

    Still waiting – nothing on the available on the news sites yet about the redistricting announcement. The Seattle PI site seems to be down – temporarily, I hope.