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April 19, 2018

4/11/2018 1:04:00 PM
Redistricting discussion proof democracy never sleeps

Democracy in action is learning about and discussing the intricacies of state and federal legislative redistricting in Washington two-plus years ahead of its taking place. The process of democracy took place Monday evening, as some 35 serious citizens came out to a Skagit County League of Women Voters presentation.
Linnea Hirst, from the Washington State League of Women Voters, powered through a comprehensive Power-Point presentation covering Washington’s method of deter-mining legislative district boun-daries and summarizing other state systems. In Washington, a nonpartisan four-member Washington State Redistricting Commission is de facto bipartisan, Hirst said, with the legislative caucuses naming two Democrats and two Republicans.
Hirst and Julie Anne Kempf, who answered questions and is also from the State League, both offered the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, that state’s redistricting organization, as an alternative model for an independent commission not controlled by the major political parties.
Hirst pointed out that Wash-ington’s commissioners take the position of neither favoring nor discriminating against any incumbent, candidate or political party. The commissioners support incumbents being placed in the district where they won election, since the voters elected them. “The emphasis is on drawing safe districts and competing for equality of safe districts” between the parties said Hirst. This is a result of the lack of diversity in Commission representation: there are no minor political party members or independents, though “40 percent of voters in the state are independent,” said Hirst.
No Congressional incumbent has lost an election since 1998.
Both women suggested a role for the League is educating the public for their more involved participation and turning citizens out to participate at public hearings in 2021. An option for citizens is placing an initiative on the ballot to change the constitution by creating a redistricting commission independent of the Democrats and Republicans. Such an initiative would require a statewide coalition ably led by a lead organization. Kempf said the State League was not prepared to take that role. She said her personal preference was a 2019 campaign and election so if the referendum passed, the commission would be responsible for redistricting after the 2020 census.
The presenters participated in the Washington State League’s study, “A Review of Redistricting in Washington State,” completed in 2017.
The meeting was held at the Public Utility Building in Mount Vernon.
The Skagit County League of Women Voters and the Dispute Resolution Center of Skagit County are co-sponsoring “Civil Discourse in Skagit County,” starting May 5. The series will extend into the fall. The League invites your participation.

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