Okanogan County will have new boundaries for the three commissioners’ districts so they have as close to equal population as possible, based on changes counted by the 2020 census.
If approved, the new redistricting plan will shift a dozen blocks between First and Second Avenue in Okanogan from District 2 (the Methow Valley, Brewster and Pateros, and part of Okanogan, represented by Commissioner Andy Hover) to District 1 (Omak and the Colville Reservation, represented by Commissioner Chris Branch).
The commissioners reviewed maps presented by the county’s GIS staff last week, overlaid with census block polygons, Hover said. The maps and census blocks were just outlines, with no streets, precinct names, rivers or satellite imagery, so that all changes were as neutral as possible, he said.
Population changes mean that District 1 needed about 270 more people. District 2 had to lose about 250 people. District 3 (the northern county, including Riverside, Conconully and Tonasket, represented by Commissioner Jim DeTro) had to give up about 16 people.
The commissioners first moved about 16 people from District 3 to District 2, because there wasn’t a clean way to find that small population on the border of Districts 1 and 3, Hover said.
They then shifted census polygons in Okanogan to move about 270 people from District 2 to 1. They added or subtracted a polygon at a time until they had the right number of people, Hover said.
The county’s population is now 42,104, meaning that each commissioner’s district should contain about 14,035 people. The districts are based on total population, not registered voters.
By state law, each district is supposed to be as compact as possible, and to consist of a geographically contiguous area. Population data may not be used for purposes of favoring or disfavoring any racial group or political party. To the extent feasible, district boundaries should coincide with recognized natural boundaries and preserve existing communities of related and mutual interest.
The commissioners are considering comments on the proposed district boundaries on Wednesday (Dec. 29) at 2:30 p.m. They must submit the new district lines and a legal description to the county auditor by Dec. 31. There is a public meeting to consider adoption of the plan on Jan. 5 at 1:30 p.m.
The draft map and plan are available on the county website at https://okanogancounty.org/government/commissioners/index.