Tag: majority-minority


WA Redistricting: Democrats Fool Minorities Again, No Open Congressional Majority-Minority Seat on Final Map

Surprises may be in store for politicos and voters when the State Redistricting Commission meets Wednesday morning in Olympia, reportedly to reveal the final congressional map agreed on by at least three of the commission’s four voting members, based on early information from a source with the commission.

Although the precise precinct-by-precinct details of the map are being withheld, the map produced in talks between Senate Democratic appointee Tim Ceis and Senate Republican appointee Slade Gorton and described to us includes political upsides for both parties heading into a critical election season, but has ignored the comments made most frequently at public hearings held across the state.

Certainly, changes in many districts are noteworthy, and will generate both thunderous applause and storms of controversy through the corridors of political power.

For example, Rep. Jay Inslee’s (D) bid to become governor is still an uncertain proposition, but renovation is already underway in the 1st congressional district he is vacating. No longer straddling the Puget Sound, the 1st will reportedly stay on the mainland and reach far north into what is currently the 2nd congressional district. The changes draw in many among the throng of potential Democratic and Republican candidates seeking to succeed Inslee, creating what should be the liveliest congressional primary in the state next year.

A substantial remodel is also said to be planned for the seat held by Rep. Dave Reichert (R) whose 8th congressional district will lose a large portion of its current stake in Pierce and South King Counties and drive over the Cascades into the Eastern Washington counties of Chelan and Kittitas. Recent voter trends suggest the redesigned 8th should still lean Republican, fueling speculation that Reichert might mount a challenge to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) next year.

The map the public sees this morning will give almost everyone something to talk about, almost that is except for an active group of residents who, ironically, have been talking to the commission since the beginning of the redistricting process early this year.

Since early in Washington State’s 2011 redistricting process, representatives from minority groups showed up at public hearings, repeatedly calling for the creation of a congressional district containing a majority population of minority residents.

Lamentations organized by minority voting rights group OneAmerica complained of poor congressional representation in areas with larger minority populations, and high on their wish list was to situate the new 10th congressional district in a majority-minority area to give candidates from those communities an opportunity to run for the open seat.

OneAmerica took the initiative to draw a “Unity Map,” placing the dream district in the area south of Seattle down to the Pierce County line and eastward into the communities feeding the Highway 167 corridor.

When proposed maps were introduced by each of the four redistricting commissioners in mid-September, all but one commissioner – House Democratic appointee Dean Foster – did not feature some form of majority-minority district in the south King County area. (House Republican appointee Tom Huff drew his proposed 10th congressional seat to almost the exact specifications of the Unity Map.)

After all the build-up – nada. Well, almost nada.

The final congressional map said to be agreed to by the four-man commission is reported to place the wide open new 10th congressional district in Thurston County (the area the Democratic establishment has sought to procure for former state representative Denny Heck to wage his second attempt to win a seat in the U.S. House), while the 9th congressional district is drawn into South King County and portions of the lower eastside of Lake Washington, giving minority activists the majority-minority district they desired but with baggage in the form of incumbent Democrat Rep. Adam Smith (D).

Some may see the agreement reached concerning the creation of a majority-minority district as half a loaf, an appeasement born of the need to protect Smith as an incumbent and launch Heck’s congressional career. If minorities respond unfavorably to these developments, it could be one more sign that the political marriage of convenience between minorities and the Democratic Party is becoming less expedient.


[photo credit: baboon™]


WA Redistricting: Republican Commissioners Agree on Majority-Minority District, Democrats Split

The four appointed commissioners on Washington State Redistricting Commission released their proposals to redraw the political lines and recalibrate legislative and congressional districts to account for shifts in population, as well as add a new 10th Congressional District, at a Tuesday morning meeting in Olympia.

Though there were significant differences in the approaches taken by Democrats and Republicans, the most notable was an apparent role reversal from stereotypical party roles on the issue of recognizing large minority populations in congressional representation.

During the public forum phase of Washington’s redistricting process, the Commission heard from hundreds of citizens across the state about the desire for a majority-minority congressional district to be situated in South Seattle. In the plans released Tuesday, the Commission’s two Republicans (former State Rep. Tom Huff and former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton) found room on their maps for a majority-minority district while Democrats split on situating a district that would be made up mostly of minorities.

House Democrat-appointee Tim Ceis drew a majority-minority district south of Seattle in his plan, while Senate Democrat pick Dean Foster said that his districts just “didn’t make the magic 50 percent.”

The apparent difference of opinion among Democratic ranks is something NW Daily Marker alluded to almost three months ago to the day, when we wrote:

Win/Win, OneAmerica and allies in the progressive wing of Washington’s Democratic Party are at loggerheads with an organized faction of their party’s establishment who view situating a majority-minority district in the South Seattle as an impediment to creating a new district around the state capital of Olympia, one that currently exists only on the drafting tables of Democrat strategists as the means for getting Denny Heck elected to Congress.

As the Heck coalition works through one Democrat-appointed commissioner and the South Seattle 10th effort works through another, they each run the risk of losing sight of the purpose of the hearings.

In between the lines, the implication of voting rights activists that minority communities in Washington’s Democrat-controlled environment remain dissatisfied with their representation and unwelcome in the political process may be cause for soul-searching within the party of progressives.

Back to the present day, The Stranger’s Eli Sanders encapsulated the angst of progressive Democrats best in his question to commissioners:

“Any of you want to offer a theory as to why the two Republicans on the commission appear more interested in a majority minority Congressional District than the two Democrats?”

But as Sanders and other sit down tonight to pore over the maps (available on the Commission’s website), the purpose behind the Democratic split should become abundantly clear. It’s just plain politics.

Though each of the two Republican proposals arguably make the state more competitive, but offer little in the way of truly safe seats, Democrats are using the process to consolidate power and play keep-away in the months before another predicted Republican wave in a presidential election year.

Even in the manner of each party’s presentation, there are clear signs that the partisan camps had approached legislative and congressional redistricting from vastly different perspectives and with very different agendas.

Republicans Gorton and Huff laid out cases for their respective redistricting plans citing population as their primary rationale and including community concerns as other factors considered in their choices. In contrast, the presentations of Democrats Tim Ceis and Dean Foster heavily leaned on economic conditions, levels of public health, and social indicators to justify their proposals.

Republicans seem content to let the map be defined primarily by where people are choosing to live and in the process allow for a playing field in Washington State politics that creates better opportunities for each party. In contrast, the Democratic plans seem to driven more by outcomes than opportunity, as evidenced by the over-strengthening of their hold in Western Washington and the attempt to break up Republican districts in Eastern Washington, an architecture that would allow for another decade or more of Democratic control in state politics.

In particular, the Ceis plan: consolidates Rep. Rick Larsen’s (D) 2nd District to give him a breather after last year’s nail biter against John Koster, extends Rep. Jim McDermott’s (D) 7th District further north into solid blue territory, creates the new 10th District around the State Capitol in Olympia (densely packed with public employees), and gives Tacoma and Federal Way to 9th District Rep. Adam Smith (D) (bending like a high jumper to avoid touching less predictable districts in Auburn).

The Ceis map also redraws the 1st Congressional District to bear only a passing resemblance to gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee’s (D) current turf. Instead of straddling Puget Sound with one foot in Kitsap County and the other stepping on parts of North King, South Snohomish and the upper eastside of Lake Washington, the district would be pulled back onto the eastern shore of Puget Sound and would extend down into the purplish communities of Bellevue and Sammamish. And maybe it’s a trick of the eye, but the center of gravity of Ceis’ proposed 1st appears to be State Rep. Roger Goodman’s neighborhood.

Foster’s congressional plan could be seen as even more brazen, primarily because it is untethered from any desire to identify a large and distinct community of minorities in King County.

As new factors are added to the analysis of these maps – residence locations of incumbents and likely challengers being a key area of interest –Republicans will have to approach a negotiation after Democrats have gone all from the onset.

Debate among commissioners is tentatively agreed to begin sometime after October 11th, with a target date of November 1st for final maps looming.


[photo credit: Eric Constantineau]


Proposal for New Congressional District in South Seattle Seen as ‘Workable’ by GOP Commissioner

Voters and politicos in Washington state will have their first real opportunity to discuss real geography on Tuesday when the bipartisan State Redistricting Commission reveals four maps (one congressional and one legislative from each party’s two-man appointed delegation) to redraw the political lines and situate a new 10th Congressional District.

In an odd sort of role reversal, Democrats have been seen as split on the idea of locating the new 10th CD in south of Seattle in order to to recognize the surging new population core of minorities in South King County and the Eastside, while some Republicans are acknowledging the merits of such a plan.

A strong call for the creation of the new 10th Congressional District in parts of Southwest King County and the Eastside was voiced throughout the Commission’s four-month schedule of public forums around the state. The map proposed by United for Fair Representation takes portions of the current 7th, 8th and 9th Congressional Districts comprising an area that has experienced rapid population growth in minority communities.

Representatives from groups advocating for better minority participation in elections were omnipresent at commission hearings making their political case. But the role of the Redistricting Commission is to draw new district boundaries that balance the population shifts since the last U.S. Census in 2000, while also respecting community boundaries that are sometimes difficult to ascertain.

Commissioner Tom Huff, the appointee of Republicans in the State House, does not see that the proposal for making the new 10th CD a majority-minority district conflicts with the Commission’s obligations.

“The final negotiation will be interesting,” Huff told NW Daily Marker. “But the lines as drawn are pretty workable.”

Huff suggested that the new lines penciled in for a district where people of color would be in the majority is simply a recognition of demographic changes in the region that have taken place in the last ten years.

“We’ve had a tremendous increase in the population of minorities, and particularly in those areas, and that’s a different dynamic than we had in 2001,” Huff said. “We are catching up to the times.”

Catching up to the times, indeed, but not necessarily lurching into uncharted territory. Majority-minority legislative districts have been in place around the state, but have failed in many cases to magically generate the kind of participation from minority communities that proponents suggest.

“When you talk about legislative districts, we already have a number of them in the state. That hasn’t made a whole lot of difference in who’s representing them,” Huff said. “That’s very true in Yakima… and in some of the Seattle suburbs. The 37th [legislative district] is an example.”

“It’s not necessarily going to assure them that they’re going to have a person of color representing them,” Huff added.

The fact that the proposed 10th CD sits on territory that is primarily Democrat-controlled could be at the heart of why some Democratic politicians see its formation as a double-edged sword. Redistricting always holds potential for the out-party to connect with different voters. In the case of South Seattle, if minorities are truly feeling underrepresented by their state and congressional representatives, the door could be open for Republicans to begin a dialogue with disaffected voters.

The Washington State Redistricting Commission is scheduled to release their proposed maps for congressional and legislative districts Tuesday after a morning meeting in Olympia.


[image credit: courtesy use from United for Fair Representation]


Internal Democratic Politics May Complicate Redistricting in Washington

Despite all attempts to depoliticize Washington State’s redistricting process by taking it out of the hands of the legislature, it appears that political infighting may again be getting in the way of a speedy drawing of new voting lines.

Only this time it is not the usual red and blue shirts holding up progress, but an internal rift among Democrats over whether a new majority-minority congressional district in South Seattle should take priority over the creation of a cozy district dominated by state workers in Thurston County.

Win/Win, OneAmerica and allies in the progressive wing of Washington’s Democratic Party are at loggerheads with an organized faction of their party’s establishment who view situating a majority-minority district in the South Seattle as an impediment to creating a new district around the state capital of Olympia, one that currently exists only on the drafting tables of Democrat strategists as the means for getting Denny Heck elected to Congress.

As the Heck coalition works through one Democrat-appointed commissioner and the South Seattle 10th effort works through another, they each run the risk of losing sight of the purpose of the hearings.

In between the lines, the implication of voting rights activists that minority communities in Washington’s Democrat-controlled environment remain dissatisfied with their representation and unwelcome in the political process may be cause for soul-searching within the party of progressives.

In a real sense, the cold war developing between establishment Democrats and progressives over the preferred location of the 10th District has the danger of dragging the Redistricting Commission down into a political quagmire. Failing to meet a self-imposed November 1st deadline to present a map to the public has begun to look more and more likely.

The proposal to situate the 10th District in South Seattle has been spearheaded by the national immigrant activist group OneAmerica, working in close coordination with the Win/Win Network, a Washington state collaborative of progressive interest groups. At the Redistricting Commission’s hearing in Auburn on May 23rd, OneAmerica submitted their proposed map for a new 10th Congressional District to be considered, a swatch of territory that would take large chunks out of the 7th and 9th Congressional Districts, and would nip at the edges of the present-day 8th.

According to Win/Win executive director George Cheung, speaking to the Commission at a hearing in Auburn on May 23rd, the 10th District envisioned by his group would have “a majority of people of color.” Cheung also stated that “creating a majority people of color district is critical for encouraging people of color to participate in the democratic process.”

State policy director of OneAmerica Toby Guevin has appeared at hearings on both sides of the Cascades. Guevin trekked to Yakima for the June 8th hearing to tell commissioners: “We want to push for the new 10th Congressional District in South King County.”

One day earlier, another OneAmerica volunteer had stepped to the microphone in Pasco to deliver the same message, as well as adding his voice to the ACLU and other voting rights groups calling for the creation of a majority-minority legislative district from dominantly Hispanic neighborhoods in Yakima.

The case for a Hispanic voting district in Yakima was further underscored in remarks to the Commission from Seattle University professor and voting right advocate Joaquin Avila.

“From [the Hispanic] community perspective, what is right is that the legislature should be reflective of the people that it represents, the legislature must be diverse,” Avila said.

Guevin, Cheung, and Avila are speaking for different communities but expressing the same concern. In the Democrat-controlled political environment of Washington, minorities do not receive adequate representation and are not encouraged to participate in the political process.

Because the desired location for the South Seattle 10th District is found squarely inside of Democratic territory that is as solid as it gets in politics, it begs the question: If Congressmen Jim McDermott and Adam Smith are not representing the minorities in their districts, might it be a failure of the policies, not the politicians?

Another frustrating feature of the 10th District debate among Democrats may be what a South Seattle congressional district does in terms of redistricting math. The 2010 Census showed clearly that the Seattle metropolitan area is shrinking and because districts are created based on population – not area – each of Seattle’s congressional districts technically should be expanding in size. But wedging a new district into the area compounds the problem, creating a spill-over effect around the state and creating potential advantages for Republicans.

Using an online tool loaded with the most up-to-date census and voting data, NW Daily Marker took a stab at performing a redistricting of Washington State. We used the OneAmerica 10th District map as our base, and attempted to follow the laws and guidelines imposed on the Redistricting Commission – in brief, a) districts should be contiguous, b) they  should follow municipal and county boundaries as much as is practicable, and c) they must distribute the state’s population equally among all counties, with a small tolerance.

Our wholly unscientific experiment in redistricting created an interesting result when compared with the current district map (image to right, click to view larger).

There are certainly different maps that could emerge from this quasi-arcane process. But no map can disregard facts about where Washington’s population is growing. The Commission was reminded about these stark realities by a citizen at the Pasco hearing.

“Eastern WA’s population is going to continue to grow… the Tri-cities area is one of the fastest growing areas in the nation right now per capita,” Jon Wyss, apple grower, told the Commission. “Seattle[’s population] — if you look at birth rates and trends – is on the decline.”

“It’s either lose a district now or two later,” Wyss warned.

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