Despite the state redistricting commission’s disturbing missteps as it drew up new boundaries for Washington’s legislative and congressional districts, the bipartisan process we have here is still far superior to what happens in too many other states where majority party legislators gerrymander their way to undeserved political dominance.

Congressional districts in Washington are generally geographically coherent and do not give unfair advantage to either party. Taking the line drawing out of the hands of legislators also creates something that is now quite rare in American electoral politics: swing districts that do not tilt heavily toward either Republicans or Democrats.

The swinging-est of them all is the 8th Congressional District that stretches across the Cascades from Sammamish to Chelan. Since the district was first created, it has been represented by two Republicans, first Jennifer Dunn and then Dave Reichert, and then Democrat Kim Schrier.

Schrier first won the seat in 2018 and again in 2020 with about 52% of the vote over Republican challenges.  This year, the vote could be very close. The redistricting commission shifted the 8th district lines, cutting out a section near Auburn and pulling in a big chunk of exurban and rural Snohomish County and more of rural Kittitas and Chelan counties on the east side of the mountains, thereby adding more GOP-leaning voters and increasing the challenge for Schrier.

Schrier claims not to be overly concerned. In a Times interview last December, she said, “The political landscape — it’s a swing district. It’s always going to be a swing district. But when people vote, they look at their member. You know, ‘Are they here? Are they working hard? Are they listening?’ ”

Actually, the real question is, are voters listening and who are they listening to? Schrier’s view about the amount of informed analysis people give to their ballot choices is wildly optimistic. I would venture to guess that most people living in the 8th District would draw a blank when asked to name their congressional representative, let alone be able to say what she has accomplished while in office. When marking their ballots, the vast majority of citizens will be checking the box based on party affiliation.

It is nice to fantasize about the discernment of voters, but Schrier would be smart to work on turning out every last Democrat in the 8th District if she wants another term in the other Washington. 

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