With the 2010 census resulting in a 10th congressional district for Washington, the Eastside political map will almost certainly change, and Redistricting Commission member Tim Ceis told a Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday that new seat could be part of Kirkland.
Every 10 years the federal census triggers redistricting to balance population numbers across legislative and congressional districts. This latest census also earned the state a new congressional seat because of its population growth of more than 800,000 residents, to 6.7 million.
Ceis, former chief of staff to former King County executive Ron Sims and a former deputy major of Seattle, told the chamber luncheon at Carillon Point's that population growth threw several districts out of balance, and that redistricting must address that. Significant growth occurred in southeast King and southeast Pierce counties, as well as in Clark and Lewis counties down south.
“That means pretty significant boundary redistricting on its own,” he said. “But now there is also a 10th congressional district. Exactly where that 10th seat will be—there are a lot of people interested in it.”
Most of Kirkland is in District 1, but southern areas are in District 8.
“That new district could come up north, and again with the 8th District, it’s possible it could be in the Kirkland area,” said Ceis, now a partner at Ceis, Bayne East Strategic, a consulting firm.
Redistricting in Washington is handled primarily by the five-member commission, which is ostensibly non-partisan—but in practice is highly partisan. Two members each are chosen by the state Republican and Democratic caucuses, and a fifth, non-voting member is chosen by the Legislature.
Ceis is one of the Democratic members, along with former state House clerk Dean Foster. Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and Tom Huff, a former legislator, are the Republican members.
The voting members must use mandated criteria—population balance, “communities of interest,” cultural and commercial groupings—but they also may work to achieve the best boundaries for their parties.
“The newer suburban districts where there’s been a lot of growth tend to vote Republican,” Ceis noted. “That’s a big challenge for the Democratic members of the commission."
The panel must present a redistricting package to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2012, and 16 public hearings will be part of the process. They have not been scheduled yet, but Ceis said they will be in June and July around the state.
In the meantime, there will be plenty of politicking by potential candidates, by sitting lawmakers concerned about being drawn out of their districts—which inevitably occurs—and by party bosses.
“We’re looking at the immediate interests of (party) members in these seats—I’m very popular with these guys, “ Ceis said. “But part of our job is to look at the long term, 10 years out.”