Voter boundary lines may change by end of year
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
May 24, 2011 · Updated 2:27 PM
By the end of the year, some Island County voters will likely be living in a different commissioner district.
Officials in the auditor’s office and the planning department are in the process of reviewing census data to redraw the boundaries of the county’s three commissioner districts.
Meanwhile, the Washington State Redistricting Commission is holding public meetings before redrawing legislative and congressional district boundaries, which could affect Island County.
Island County Auditor Sheilah Crider said the goal for county officials is to draw lines so that the population in each of the three districts is as close to each other as possible. Redistricting occurs every 10 years after census data is released.
“We’re looking for a magic number of about 26,000,” she said.
In the last 10 years, the county’s population grew by nearly 7,000 to a total of 78,506 for 2010. The shape of the redrawn districts will depend on where growth occurred within the county, but officials can’t just draw straight lines on a map. Crider said they will be mindful of certain established boundaries, such as city limits, precincts, junior taxing districts and even roads.
“There needs to be a rational nexus for what you choose as a boundary line,” she said.
A team of officials and staff members from the auditor’s office, the planning department and the prosecutor’s office will redraw the districts, giving the commissioners three options to choose from. The decisions are based solely on population. Anthony Boscolo, senior planner, said it looks from initial analysis that the districts won’t need to change much.
“Growth has been spread relatively equally between each,” he said. “As we continue to look into the different scenarios I would expect we will learn more about how things will change in the future.”
For any residents who may find themselves in a new district, the biggest impact will involve which commissioner candidate they can vote for in primary elections. Residents have to live within the candidates’ district to cast ballots in primary elections, but voters countywide take part in choosing commissioners in the general election.
It’s also possible that redistricting will have political ramifications in a county that’s divided politically and geographically.
District 1 spans South Whidbey and Central Whidbey. District 2 includes the city of Oak Harbor and areas outside the city on North Whidbey. District 3 covers Camano Island and a large segment of North Whidbey.
When it comes to the state, Crider said it’s possible that redistricting could have an effect on Island County. There will be some big changes with the state getting a new congressional district. Already, John Koster, the twice-failed Republican candidate for the U.S. House, has said he might run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen yet again because a redrawn Second District, which presently includes Island County, could favor Republicans.
Crider said she’s watching the process closely, but it’s far too early to tell what will happen. The bipartisan Washington State Redistricting Commission is responsible for redrawing the boundaries for each of the state’s 49 legislative and now 10 congressional districts. For more information on the commission’s public forums, go to www.redistricting.wa.gov.
Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at email@example.com or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.