OLYMPIA, Wash. - The new year will bring new boundaries for Washington's congressional districts - and soon, one more U.S. Representative for the state, bringing the total from nine to 10. In many states, creating the new district would be a legislative responsibility, but Washington does it differently. Legislative leaders choose four members to serve as a Redistricting Commission - two Republicans and two Democrats - and those four choose a fifth, non-voting, member as commission chair.
Kim Abel, state action chair with the League of Women Voters of Washington
, says voters approved the system in the 1980s, to make the process as fair as possible.
"It really makes a lot of sense to have an even-handed commission - a commission that's not weighted to either party - deciding these things. That's why the League
got involved originally, to make sure that got on the ballot before the citizens."
Making 10 districts out of nine means each will be a little smaller, geographically, but the overall effect in Congress will be bigger, she points out.
"That extra representative gives you just that little bit more clout - another committee, and other issues of interest for the state of Washington. It's really important that this gets done without a lot of politics, so that more citizens' voices can be heard."
The commission also sets the boundaries for state legislative districts. The goal is to create districts that represent roughly equal numbers of voters, and the public will get to weigh in on the process in hearings around the state. The new boundaries will be in place for the 2012 primary election.
Information about the process and the commission's progress is available online at www.sos.wa.gov