The population of Washington state grew to 7,705,281 from 6,724,540 in the decade between the 2010 census and the 2020 census, according to data released Monday.
The 14.6% increase is not enough for Washington to add to its 10 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The census figures are used for reapportioning seats in the U.S. House and in the Legislature.
Though the census data will not alter the state’s representation in Washington, D.C., the redistricting commission for the state will still meet to redraw political boundaries.
Washington will not gain clout in Congress as the once-a-decade reapportionment of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives plays out this year.
Texas, Florida, Oregon, Colorado, Montana and North Carolina gained U.S. House seats, while seven states lost seats, including California for the first time.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday that the total population of the United States is 331,449,281 as the country grew at its second-slowest rate in history, at 7.4%. The slowest growth was between 1930-1940. However, the increase in Washington state’s population contributed to the 9.2% growth in the West as that region and the South increased and the eastern and northern portions of the nation lost population.
Washington’s no-change status at the U.S. House level could take some of the drama out of the state’s 2021 redistricting process, set to begin this month. Unlike a decade ago, when the state was awarded an additional House seat, there will be no need to drastically redraw political boundaries to squeeze in a new district.
Still, political flashpoints loom as Republicans and Democrats prepare to hash out new maps for the state’s 10 congressional and 49 legislative districts, a process controlled by a bipartisan redistricting commission.
A multiracial coalition is demanding the next round of maps stop dividing the Yakama and Colville Indian nations and provide more electoral power to communities of color. Some reformers say the political parties should be removed from the redistricting process entirely.
Above all, some civic activists want to boost public involvement in the decennial map-drawing that follows the U.S. census — a yearlong slog that is typically monitored mostly by self-interested lawmakers, partisan operatives, journalists and other political geeks.
The state’s redistricting committee is made up of four members, with the state’s Democratic and Republican caucuses each appointing two.
Joe Fain, a former state senator, and Paul Graves, who served in the state House of Representatives, are the GOP members. The Democratic appointees are April Sims, secretary-treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, and Brady Piñero Walkinshaw, a former state representative.
The members have elected Sarah Augustine as the chairperson and nonvoting member. She is executive director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Yakima and Kittitas Counties.
The Census Bureau will begin the additional activities needed to create and deliver the redistricting data previously delayed due to COVID-19.
That includes the local area counts states need to redraw or “redistrict” legislative boundaries. States are expected to receive redistricting data by Aug. 16, and the full redistricting data will be delivered by Sept. 30.
The state redistricting commission has until Nov. 15 to agree on new boundaries. At least three of four members must agree to the maps. The Legislature can make only minor changes to the commission maps and the governor has no role.
Under state law, districts must be made as equal in population as possible and aren’t supposed to be gerrymandered for partisan advantage or to discriminate against any group. They’re also supposed to avoid splitting cities and other political subdivisions. The census bureau in a news conference Monday said each House seat represents 761,167 people, compared to 710,767 in 2010.
The commission meets Monday at 7 p.m. and the meeting can be seen on TVW.
Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
This story was updated to report that seven states, not 10, lost a U.S. House seat.