The recount in the Washington governor's race has deservedly garnered a significant amount of media attention since last month's general election. However, it's another "recount"...
The recount in the Washington governor’s race has deservedly garnered a significant amount of media attention since last month’s general election. However, it’s another “recount” also as a result of that election that has been generating great interest at the King County Courthouse, and that’s the voter-mandated reconfiguration of the County Council from 13 members to nine.
Some evidently believe that the current Democratic council majority of one vote should remain in place after the redistricting process is done on Jan. 14 (“Parties must not gain as council shrinks” Times editorial, Dec. 3).
As the council members who would remain in the minority if that formula plays out, we instead believe that fairness, and the voters themselves, should come out ahead as the lines are redrawn to accommodate reducing the size of the council.
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As Republican members of the King County Council, we have outlined several key “fairness” principles for our negotiators on the districting commission to keep in mind. They are:
It is only fair that the voters in unincorporated, rural King County deserve a representative voice on the council. The recent debate on growth-management policies in King County left rural residents feeling left out of the governing process, even though they look to County Council members for their local government voice.
It’s important that at least three council districts have a majority of the unincorporated population given that more than 550,000 of the county’s 1.8 million citizens live in rural cities and unincorporated areas.
It is only fair that voters throughout the county receive appropriate representation. Right now, Seattle voters are represented in six districts nearly half of the 13-member council. Yet, Seattle residents represent just over 30 percent (572,000) of the county’s population.
Given that percentage, Seattle voters certainly should have the dominant voice in one-third (three) of the new districts. The county’s biggest city should, of course, be a major player in county matters, but it should not keep a disproportionate number of council seats just because Seattle used to have a bigger share of the county’s population.
It is only fair that districts are drawn to keep “communities of interest,” such as cities, together wherever possible rather than focusing on where current incumbents live. It is a fact of the districting process that lines must be drawn, and some voting areas are separated. However, the process is much easier if the homes of current council members are ignored, rather than if keeping incumbents in office is mandated. That is likely not what voters had in mind when they voted overwhelmingly to reduce the council’s size.
We know that the just-appointed King County Districting Committee faces a tall order in developing nine evenly proportioned districts that recognize the important economic, cultural and geographic differences in our county, all in the next four weeks. However, we trust that they are up to it especially if they keep fairness for the voters in mind, rather than being distracted by the type of partisan political games that some would prefer.
Jane Hague and David Irons are Republican members of the Metropolitan King County Council.