Local Republicans Seeking More Swing Seats in Statewide Redistricting Efforts

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Every 10 Years: Four Competing Maps All Carry Different Consequences for Local Legislative Districts and the 3rd Congressional District

With proposed Congressional and Legislative maps published by Washington state’s four redistricting commissioners, the race is on to reapportion the roughly 7.7 million state residents counted in the 2020 U.S. Census.

That includes local Republican-held districts such as the 20th Legislative District, which represents a large majority of Lewis and Cowlitz counties, as well as parts of Thurston and Clark counties; the 19th Legislative District, which represents Pacific and Wahkiakum counties, and portions of Cowlitz, Grays Harbor and Lewis counties; and the 3rd Congressional District, which encompasses Southwest Washington, from Goldendale to Raymond and includes Lewis County.

Last month, the 2021 Washington State Redistricting Commission, made up of four voting commissioners — two Democrats and two Republicans — released their proposed maps for Legislative and Congressional districts.

Washington state, like all other 49 in the U.S., is required every 10 years to redraw its districts following the decennial census. Washington state does this process through a bipartisan commission appointed by party leaders in the Legislature. Washington will neither gain nor add any seats in the U.S. Congress.

The maps can be found online at www.redistricting.wa.gov. The redistricting commission has until Nov. 15 to draw up new political boundaries.

When it comes to the 20th Legislative District, most commissioners have proposed through their maps moving portions of northwest Lewis County to the 19th Legislative District. The 20th has been a Republican stronghold for nearly two decades, holding large parts of rural Cowlitz County along with most of Lewis County.

Commissioner Joe Fain, appointed by Republicans, is the only commissioner who has proposed chopping off the 20th’s portion of Cowlitz and extending the district up into rural parts of East Thurston County and parts of rural Pierce County. It’s not evident what impact that would have on the current political makeup, though.

Commissioners are attempting to portion out all legislative districts to be competitive with a population approximate of 157,251 Washingtonians.

At a recent meeting of the Lewis County Republicans, Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, who himself appointed Fain to the redistricting commission, said there “couldn’t be a bigger difference” between what the Democrats and Republicans proposed in their maps.

The 20th Legislative District lawmaker claimed the Democratic commissioners have proposed maps that would be less competitive and add to Democrats’ majority in the Legislature.

“They’re actually suggesting that we have a supermajority, uncompetitive for the next 10 years. That should not go unnoticed,” Braun said, adding: “What we want, and what Republicans want, is competitive districts. We go find the best candidate, run the best campaign and win. What they want is for the people to have no choice.”

Tina Podlodowski, chair of the Washington state Democratic Party, took aim against Republican Commissioner Paul Graves last week after his legislative district map failed to draw a majority Latinx district in the Yakima Valley.

“I get that Republicans want to draw maps that help them win elections, but it shouldn’t be done by disenfranchising communities of interest,” Podlodowski wrote on Twitter.

Graves claims his Congressional map would make the state’s 3rd Congressional District about a half-percentage point away from being a swing district, which would double the number of swing districts in Washington to two of 10, by cutting Skamania and Klickitat counties and including more of South Thurston County.

His congressional district map would also draw out two districts in the South Puget Sound where a majority of residents were people of color, which he claims would add more representation in Congress.

Both Graves and fellow Republican Commissioner Fain have proposed cutting Skamania and Klickitat counties from the 3rd’s current boundaries, while Democratic Commissioners April Sims and Brady Walkinshaw have agreed to keep Skamania, with its small population of about 12,000 people.

Fain’s map is the only among the four commissioners that would chop off the 3rd Congressional District’s access to the Pacific Ocean via Willapa Bay. Instead, he’s proposed the district adding large portions of rural East Thurston County and South Pierce County.

The 3rd Congressional District may shrink in area after the redistricting process in order to absorb more residents and get as close to the 770,528 population for Congressional districts as possible.

The Washington State Redistricting Commission is set to hold a meeting Saturday at noon. The commission is currently soliciting public feedback on the proposed maps online.

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