Legislative redistricting in the wake of the 2000 census should mean almost no changes for Bainbridge Island voters – and no division of the island – according to draft plans released this week by the four redistricting commissioners.
The commissioners – one appointed by each of the four state legislative caucuses – each released their own maps showing how they would re-divide Washington’s nine federal congressional districts and 49 state legislative districts.
The mandate is to re-equalize district populations, to account for the 1 million additional residents Washington gained between 1990 and 2000.
On the federal level, all four plans would keep Bainbridge Island in the 1st Congressional District, currently represented by Bainbridge Island resident Jay Inslee, a Democrat.
On the state level, three of the four proposals keep Bainbridge Island in the 23d legislative district, together with north Kitsap County and a portion of the central county.
One of the four plans, from House Republican designee John Giese of Bellevue, would separate the island from North Kitsap, and joins it instead with a South Kitsap district that includes Port Orchard on much of the southern county.
The Giese plan would have the effect of insulating Rep. Beverly Woods, (R-Poulsbo), from another challenge by Bainbridge Island Democrat David Harrison, who she defeated in 2000.
Giese’s plan would also remove Bainbridge Island, which tends to vote Democratic, from the district of Sen. Betti Sheldon, (D-Tracyton).
“Sen. Sheldon very much wants to keep Bainbridge Island in her district, and has expressed that to the commission,” a spokesman in her office said Tuesday.
The commissioners will now conduct another round of public hearings and try to reconcile their plans. By Dec. 15, they must present a unified plan to the Legislature – agreed to by at least three of them.
The Legislature may make only “minor” amendments – defined as changes that affect less than 2 percent of the population of any district – and even that requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers.
The resulting plan, amended or unamended, then takes effect – neither the legislature nor the governor may block it.
Because growth in Inslee’s 1st District closely mirrored the pace of statewide growth, only minor boundary changes were necessary. Those changes varied in the four plans, but in each, the changes occur in central and west Kitsap, and in that portion of the district on the east side of Puget Sound.
Similarly, the changes in the state 23d legislative district, from which one senator and two state representatives are elected, were also minor, and were also made in west and central Kitsap County, with the exception of the more radical Giese proposal.
Washington state’s redistricting method was enacted in 1983 by citizen referendum to end the partisan strife that often accompanies the re-drawing of district lines.
The Washington method seeks to blunt partisanship by giving one representative each to House and Senate Democrats and Republicans, regardless of their actual numbers at the time of the reapportionment.
Additionally, the redistricting provision set up specific standards for the districts, including equalizing population and coinciding, where possible, with existing political subdivisions, such as cities and counties.
A third standard is to keep together contiguous communities, defined as those that share a common border or transportation route, a provision that the Giese proposal for Bainbridge Island might not satisfy.