By Sen. Brad Hawkins
The 12th District and Washington’s 48 other legislative districts have had specific boundaries since 2012. The borders for these districts, as well as Washington’s 10 federal congressional districts, will change in 2022 after the state’s redistricting process is completed near the end of this year. Since redistricting only occurs every decade, I thought it would be helpful to review the process.
How it works
Each state has its own process for redistricting. In Washington, an independent and bipartisan Redistricting Commission is established every 10 years to redraw legislative and congressional district maps for the next decade.
The redistricting process occurs after the completion of the national census, which is taken every 10 years, most recently in 2020. Congressional district lines have been drawn by the Redistricting Commission since 1983 and legislative district boundaries since 1991. This commission comprises five members. Four are appointed by the leaders of each of the four legislative caucuses. The four appointed commissioners then appoint a fifth, nonvoting, chairperson.
Enactment of new redistricting maps for Washington requires bipartisan approval. If at least three of the four Redistricting Commission members cannot agree on a map that is fair to all, responsibility for drawing the lines is turned over to the Washington Supreme Court.
Our state’s bipartisan redistricting system requires cooperation. It isn’t surprising that Washington’s redistricting process is admired by other states seeking to move away from an approach in which one party controls the final result.
Voters created the commission
For many years, the Washington State Legislature was in charge of redistricting, but many had grown angry and frustrated with how partisan and time-consuming this approach had become. By the 1980s, Washingtonians sought change. In 1983, Washington voters passed an amendment to our state constitution that created our state’s independent Redistricting Commission.
Over the past decade, several other states have revamped their redistricting process to reduce the chance of partisan politics and “gerrymandering,” a term describing districts with bizarrely drawn boundaries. I’m encouraged to know other states have followed our state’s lead in creating independent commissions to draw up legislative and congressional district maps, with just minimal political manipulation involved.
Members of the Redistricting Commission must meet certain criteria to be eligible to serve. Each appointee must be a registered voter, cannot have been a registered lobbyist within one year prior to appointment, and cannot have been an elected official or elected local or state party officer within two years of appointment.
Additionally, once appointed, commissioners may not campaign for office, participate or contribute to a political campaign, or campaign or hold a seat in the Legislature or Congress for two years after the new plan is enacted.
Earlier this year, the four legislative caucuses announced their appointees to serve on the Redistricting Commission. The Commission will be rebalancing the state legislative and federal congressional districts to ensure each district represents approximately the same population
Impact on eastern Washington
For the 12th Legislative District (Chelan and Douglas counties and portions of Grant and Okanogan counties), the boundary will most certainly be different than the existing boundary. Throughout the history of our state and certainly throughout the Redistricting Commission’s history, that has been the case for all districts.
The question is, how different will the new boundaries be? It is very possible that portions of the existing legislative districts in eastern Washington will include portions of western Washington because of greater population growth on the west side of the Cascades.
For legislative districts beginning in 2022, the ideal district will contain approximately 156,249 people. Based on the 2020 Census, the 12th District is close to that count now with over 151,000 reported. Many eastern Washington districts, however, are well under the ideal population count and, therefore, will likely expand geographically to pick up population. This will likely impact the 12th District as well.
History of borders
In the early 1930s, the 12th District was moved from southeastern Washington to its present location in north central Washington. All of Chelan County has been within the 12th District since then. In 1965, the 12th District included all of Chelan and Douglas counties.
By 1972, the western half of Okanogan County, including Winthrop and Brewster, was added to the 12th District, as was the northern part of Grant County. The northern portion of Kittitas County was part of the 12th for 30 years until the present boundaries were redrawn in 2012 — a shift that also picked up more of the southeastern portion of Okanogan County and part of Grant County.
Regardless of any shifting boundaries for the next 10 years, my hope is that Chelan and Douglas counties remain together given the unique nature and long history of shared cooperation between our two counties and their agencies. The federal congressional districts near us, the 8th District (Rep. Kim Schrier) and the 4th District (Rep. Dan Newhouse), are likely to see boundary adjustments as well. To learn more about redistricting and to share your feedback, visit http://redistricting.wa.gov.
Brad Hawkins serves as the state senator for north central Washington.