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Redistricting changes lines on the Plateau

Every 10 years, a small group of political appointees looks at Washington and adjusts the boundaries that make up legislative and congressional districts in the Evergreen State.

That political exercise has gone on for the past year and was recently completed. This week, it landed in the laps of members of the state Legislature. That body can tinker with the plan and make minor changes, but it’s expected the final draft issued by the Washington State Redistricting Commission will largely be left intact.

For those living within the 31st Legislative District, the redistricting process didn’t bring about substantive change. Roughly 92 percent of the district remained as it has for the past decade.

There were a few changes, however, as the five members of the redistricting committee sought to balance populations in the state’s 49 legislative districts and now-10 congressional districts. Demographics plays a role and politics always is a force in the process. The face of the 31st will be changing in the following ways:

A substantial portion of the 31st north of Enumclaw was carved out and given to the 5th Legislative District. The district has extended across the Green River and taken in a portion of Black Diamond. Now, the northern boundary will be 416th.

Until now, the district was rather unwieldy in a rural portion of the Plateau, as most of Wilkeson was in the 31st and a small portion was in the xxth, along with all of Carbonado and the surrounding areas. With redistricting, all of Wilkeson and Carbonado are in the 31st.

Previously, the district included a bit of Edgewood; now, it will take in all of the small town. Also, the new boundaries will have the 31st creeping into a bit of downtown Auburn.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Sen. Pam Roach said, noting that a first draft of the redistricting plan had removed Sumner from the 31st.

Rep. Christopher Hurst shared that sentiment, noting that the committee’s final draft is “vastly improved over what it was in the first version.”

Congressman Dave Reichert had mixed emotions. During a Friday stop in Enumclaw, he said he was happy he retained south King County communities, was pleased to see his district pushed across the mountains and into Kittitas County, but was sad to lose some of the rural communities in the northern reaches of King County.

Washington voters established the Washington State Redistricting Commission in 1983 to ensure voting boundaries are established through a fair and bipartisan process. The Commission includes two Democrats and two Republicans as voting members and a non-voting, nonpartisan chair. Lura Powell, from Richland, serves as the Commission chair. Democratic appointees to the Commission are Tim Ceis, Seattle; and Dean Foster, Olympia. Republican members are former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, Bellevue; and Tom Huff, Gig Harbor.

 

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