Proposed changes available online
There’s a 50/50 chance the Methow Valley could have a different set of state representatives next year, depending on how the state redistricting commission reconciles four proposed legislative maps.
The commission meets every 10 years following the U.S. Census to realign legislative and congressional district boundaries. The process is intended to keep each area roughly equal in population, while attempting to maintain existing boundaries, such as county lines, communities, school districts or Indian reservations.
The state redistricting commission released its four proposed legislative district maps on Sept. 21 and its proposed congressional maps on Sept. 28. While all four congressional proposals keep Okanogan County in the 4th Congressional District, each of the four proposed legislative maps could affect the county, and the Methow Valley, differently.
The redistricting commission is made up of four voting members — two Democrats and two Republicans — each of whom draft proposed maps. A fifth member is a non-voting chair. Alternate maps can also be submitted to the group for consideration. Ideally, each district will have about 152,000 people in it.
“Under state law, districts must be made as equal in population as possible and aren’t supposed to be gerrymandered for partisan advantage or discriminate against any group,” according to the commission. “They’re also supposed to avoid splitting up cities and other political subdivisions.”
The group has until Nov. 15 to come up with final maps to present to the legislature. Three of the four members must agree on a map before it’s presented to lawmakers. The legislature can make minor changes to the maps, but the governor’s office has no role.
This year, April Sims is the House Democratic Caucus appointee and Brady Piñero Walkinshaw is the Senate Democratic Caucus appointee. Paul Graves is the House Republican Caucus appointee and Joe Fain is the Senate Republican Caucus appointee.
Okanogan County is currently in the state’s 4th Congressional district, represented by Republican Dan Newhouse. The 4th district also includes Douglas, Grant, Adams, Franklin, Benton and Yakima counties, along with a portion of Walla Walla County.
In the legislative district map, Okanogan County is currently split between the seventh and 12th legislative districts. The 12th district includes the west end of the county and the Methow Valley, as well as Chelan, Douglas and portions of Grant counties. Three Republicans in the state legislature — Brad Hawkins in the state senate and Keith Goehner and Mike Steele in the house — represent the district. The Methow Valley has been in the 12th District since 1972.
“For the 12th Legislative District … the boundary will most certainly be different than the existing boundary,” Hawkins wrote in an editorial about the redistricting process.
He noted the 12th district has close to 152,000 people already.
The 7th district represents the eastern portion of Okanogan County, as well Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille and portions of Spokane counties and is also represented by three Republicans — Sen. Shelly Short and Reps. Jacquelin Maycumber and Joel Kretz.
The nearby 13th legislative district currently includes Lincoln, Grant and Kittitas counties and legislators include Republicans Sen. Judy Warnick and Reps. Tom Dent and Alex Ybarra.
Under Sims’ proposal, none of Okanogan County would stay in the 12th Legislative District. The Methow and much of the county would be in the 7th district with Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille and part of Spokane counties. The remainder of Okanogan County — that taken up by the Colville Reservation — would be in a completely revamped 13th district. It’s unclear exactly if the cities of Okanogan and Omak are split between the 7th or 13th district, or if the map places the city limits of each within the 13th district, and outlying areas in the 7th.
Under Walkinshaw’s proposal, the majority of Okanogan County would be in the 7th district, including much, but not all, of the Methow Valley, along with Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille and part of Spokane counties. The southernmost parts of Okanogan County — Pateros, Brewster, Monse and Methow — will be in district 12 along with Chelan, Douglas, and parts of Grant and Lincoln counties.
“Sometimes incumbents are looking to stay safe … but I’m looking at the district from a whole. I like the ones that keep the common interests somewhat together,” Goehner said. “I think it’s important to make sure the communities are well represented, and I think it serves them better to have communities and towns and rural areas around them together rather than drawing arbitrary lines based on population alone.”
Graves’ legislative map keeps the 7th and 12th districts virtually identical, with Okanogan split as it currently is.
Fain’s map stretches the boundaries of the 12th District farther east in Okanogan County. In his map, Conconully and Riverside are in the 12th district, while Tonasket is in the 7th. Currently, Conconully and Riverside are inside the seventh district’s boundaries.
The commission could ultimately choose to approve one of the maps, or a combination of several.
Hawkins said in a statement that Fain’s and Graves’ options keep the “character” of the 12th district similar, while Walkinshaw’s shifts the district more toward Central Washington, eliminating much of Okanogan County.
“The Okanogan County portion of the district — in particular the Methow Valley — involves many key communities and stakeholders with unique interests including recreation, water, wildfire, transportation, and other issues,” he said.
Hawkins was particularly opposed to Sims’ proposal regarding the 12th district.
“The 12th District proposed by Commissioner Sims is oddly shaped, difficult to access, splinters key counties, and not workable,” he said.
The Okanogan County Democrats issued a statement asking that all of Okanogan County be placed in the 12th district, which isn’t proposed in any of the commission’s maps.
For more information on redistricting, go to https://www.redistricting.wa.gov/.