Opinion

Squiggles, dips make a difference | Editorial

A handful of people are presently busy with a very important project: the redistricting of Washington State.

Voting district boundaries aren’t always neat and tidy; rather, they show squiggles and dips where special consideration is given to one political party or another, or another few thousand people are needed to make the districts even in population.

The five-member Washington State Redistricting Commission, consisting of two Republicans, two Democrats and a non-voting chair, has a particularly tough job this year. Since the last census 10 years ago, Washington has grown by more than one million people, giving us 10 rather than nine congressional districts. Somewhere in this vast country of ours, another state lost a district to make this possible, because the number of members of the House of Representatives is fixed at 435.

The commission is in the midst of holding public hearings around the state, after which it will deliberate and make a final report to the Legislature by the end of the year.

The final map can make or break a politician. Republican John Koster of Everett, who has lost twice to Democrat Rick Larsen, seems positively giddy about how the Second District will look, as he’s already announced he’s running. It was only seven months ago that he lost. But he’s betting the Second District will lose Democratic voters as a new district is squeezed out of, perhaps, the east side of Lake Washington.

The Second District at present is fairly cleanly mapped, including Island, Whatcom, Skagit and Snohonish counties. But there’s a dip into King County that, if added to the new district, may cost Larsen some Democratic votes. With Everett and Bellingham already in his camp, it’s hard to see where Larsen could benefit much no matter how the Second District is redrawn.

On the state level, our 10th Legislative District encompasses Whidbey and Camano Island as well as La Conner, Stanwood and a bit of the Burlington area. It’s been a stronghold of Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen for decades, but her margins of victory aren’t what they were before the 2000 redistricting. Losing more Democrats in the 2010 redistricting process could finally give Republicans hope in 2012 senatorial election.

The entire state is a huge jigsaw puzzle of congressional and legislative districts whose pieces are being tossed about, sawn up and pieced together again in this redistricting process. It’s outcome will play a significant role in who represents Whidbey Island in the future. You can keep an eye on the process at www.redistricting.wa.gov.

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