Washington voters have important roles to play in elections this November and beyond — starting now. As crucial as this fall’s city elections are in Seattle and elsewhere, voters have another key opportunity for civic participation as well.
Political redistricting comes along once every decade, giving an opening to redraw the map for elections to Congress and the state Legislature. Washington’s carefully constructed bipartisan redistricting mechanism opens up a process controlled in 32 other states by statehouse partisans. Here, the public can make meaningful input, and that window is now open. State residents can take advantage of new technology to help set up an equitable landscape for future elections.
The state Redistricting Commission’s four voting members — two Democrats and two Republicans — must come to majority agreement on district maps by Nov. 15. Members of the public have until Oct. 22 to contribute to this process by drawing their own maps using an innovative, user-friendly online tool called Draw Your WA. Both of the state’s major political parties are expected to complete their own initial proposals this month. But their proposals are not the final say. In the words of the state constitution, the final product “shall not be drawn purposely to favor or discriminate against any political party or group.”
The public can weigh in to ensure that communities aren’t split up, or lumped into districts where their interests are subsumed by others. The law requires districts to be equal in population, but where the lines are drawn dictates whether communities are splintered or kept cohesive.
Washington’s current political map puts thousands of Eastside suburbanites in the same Congressional district as rural Chelan County, while splitting Yakama Indian Reservation residents between two districts. Redistricting should reexamine these choices, while reflecting the state’s uneven population growth.
In a time of overheated political polarization, political redistricting offers a rare chance to reset debates and rebalance interests. Debates in Olympia’s Legislative Building and the composition of the delegation representing Washington in the U.S. Capitol will be dictated by what the Redistricting Commission produces. Civically engaged Washington residents should take advantage of the chance to participate.
Voting is essential to good governance. So is helping set fair terms for elections to be held. Draw a map and do your part.