Creating Snohomish County Council districts that comply with state lawPosted 6 August 2011 by Bob Chapman
This blog post is entirely my own work and responsibility. The Snohomish County Districting Committee or political party did not authorize this post. I did not consult with any other member of the Districting Committee when writing it.
(4) The plan shall be consistent with the following criteria:
(a) Each internal director, council, or commissioner district shall be as nearly equal in population as possible to each and every other such district comprising the municipal corporation, county, or special purpose district.
(b) Each district shall be as compact as possible.
(c) Each district shall consist of geographically contiguous area.
(d) Population data may not be used for purposes of favoring or disfavoring any racial group or political party.
(e) To the extent feasible and if not inconsistent with the basic enabling legislation for the municipal corporation, county, or district, the district boundaries shall coincide with existing recognized natural boundaries and shall, to the extent possible, preserve existing communities of related and mutual interest.
I am one of five members of the Snohomish County Districting Committee. To be exact, one of two members appointed to represent the Democratic Party. There are two members appointed to represent the Republican Party, and a chair selected by the four appointed members. The complete committee recommended a person to be our Districting Master to analyze the census data, and to draw boundaries using committee input.
On Tuesday, August 9, 2011, there will be a public meeting where we will receive public comment on two different plans.
- Plan 1 (3.86 MB, PDF). This was the first plan presented by the Districting Master.
- Plan 7 (3.82 MB, PDF). This was a “compromise plan” that was drawn at the request of the chair by the Districting Master to take into account comments made upon Plan 1 through Plan 6.
There is not a “Republican Plan” or a “Democratic Plan” open for comment at the meeting. The closest to a “Republican Plan” is Plan 2, proposed as a way to add necessary people to the second council district. The closest to a “Democratic Plan” is Plan 4, proposed as a way to make Plan 2 comply with state law. In all cases, the Districting Master drew each plan using census data.
To summarize the differences:
- Plan 1 follows the more traditional of drawing districts in Snohomish County. It took into account city boundaries, then filled in the unincorporated areas as necessary. This split “existing communities of related and mutual interest” throughout the county.
- Plan 7 follows the principles underlying Plan 4, but does a better job of, “to the extent possible, preserve existing communities of related and mutual interest.”
This plan starts from the council districts drawn in 2001, using the same criteria given by the Districting Committee to the Districting Master in 2001. (I was a member of the 2001 Districting Committee—the only person to repeat in 2011.)
Adopting this plan would be easy, but easy is not always right or complies with the law.
If the current law was in effect in 2001, the current districts could have been challenged in court on much the same reasons as Plan 1 could be challenged today if adopted as is. (Although I was on the committee in 2001, I do not remember the exact requirements of the Revised Code of Washington then.)
This is a compromise plan drawn in response to comments made in committee to all other plans. It is based on Plan 4, which was proposed by me to remove legal possible difficulties with Plan 2.
Plan 4 proposed to follow state law by drawing as many boundaries as possible along existing recognized natural boundaries to provide a bright, clear lines for district boundaries. Most notable among those boundaries is I-5.
The major differences between Plan 4 and Plan 7 are the following:
- Plan 7 does not split Stanwood. Plan 4 used SR-532 as a northern boundary.
- Plan 7 took a clearly identifiable area west of I-5 from District 2 to give to District 5 to balance populations. Plan 4 kept all of District 5 east of I-5.
Not based on political or racial considerations.
Follows practices in other major Washington State counties.
Political and racial considerations
(a) Any registered voter residing in an area affected by the redistricting plan may request review of the adopted local plan by the superior court of the county in which he or she resides, within forty-five days of the plan’s adoption. Any request for review must specify the reason or reasons alleged why the local plan is not consistent with the applicable redistricting criteria. The municipal corporation, county, or district may be joined as respondent. The superior court shall thereupon review the challenged plan for compliance with the applicable redistricting criteria set out in subsection (4) of this section.
(b) If the superior court finds the plan to be consistent with the requirements of this section, the plan shall take effect immediately.
(c) If the superior court determines the plan does not meet the requirements of this section, in whole or in part, it shall remand the plan for further or corrective action within a specified and reasonable time period.
(d) If the superior court finds that any request for review is frivolous or has been filed solely for purposes of harassment or delay, it may impose appropriate sanctions on the party requesting review, including payment of attorneys’ fees and costs to the respondent municipal corporation, county, or district.
In short, any districting plan appearing not complying with subsection (4) is subject to challenge and change through the courts if it appears to consider racial or political groups. (See the beginning of this post for subsection (4).)
In 2011, District 2 needed to gain the most population from the 2001 districts. One of the Republicans on the committee suggested moving the Tulalip Reservation to District 2 to accomplish this. It could be argued that such a move was the quickest way to add population to District 2 and take it from District 1. This proposal also hoped to remove some of the problems with the Granite Falls area in Plan 1.
The fly in this ointment is that the voters in the Tulalip Reservation vote predominately Democratic in a district currently represented by a Republican. It is the largest area in Snohomish County identified with a racial minority. This leaves such a proposal subject to challenge in court for having been made for racial or political reasons.
I did not say the proposal was made intentionally to violate state law. The law does not say such a move needed to intentional, only that it was done.
In addition to possible racial or political considerations, Plan 2 still split identifiable communities, such as Silver Lake and Martha Lake.
Because of the problems with Plan 2, I proposed what is officially Plan 4. My name for it is the “I-5 Solution.” The idea behind Plan 4 is the following:
- Have all boundaries follow major features, such as roads or rivers. Do not depend on city limits (which change) or less than major roadways.
- Keep identifiable communities in the same district.
- Not allow even a hint of racial or political considerations in the boundaries.
Plan 4 has evolved into Plan 7, taking into considerations the problems with all the other plans. Plan 7 was requested by the chair of the committee for this reason.
There is an accusation that Plan 7 favors Democrats because of what it removes from District 1. The numbers do not support that accusation.
The area north of the Snohomish River proposed for District 2 is about 30,000 people (give or take a few). Stanwood and Tulalip make up well over half of those people, with about 17-18,000 people (give or take a few).
The following election results are from 2008, 2009, and 2010. They were taken from the Snohomish County Auditor’s website. These results show that Plan 7 removes a substantial number of voters that vote for Democrats from District 1.
|Year||Race||Precinct||Democrat||Republican||Write-In||Dem. Percent||Rep. Percent|
|2010||US Representative||STANWOOD 1|
|2010||US Representative||STANWOOD 2|
|2010||US Representative||STANWOOD 3|
|2010||US Representative||STANWOOD 4|
|2010||US Representative||STANWOOD 5|
|2010||US Representative||STANWOOD 6|
|2010||US Representative||STANWOOD 7|
|2010||US Representative||TULALIP 1|
|2010||US Representative||TULALIP 2|
|2010||US Representative||TULALIP 3|
|2010||US Representative||TULALIP 4|
|2010||US Representative||TULALIP 5|
|2010||US Representative||TULALIP 6|
|US Representative Total|
|2010||US Senator||STANWOOD 1|
|2010||US Senator||STANWOOD 2|
|2010||US Senator||STANWOOD 3|
|2010||US Senator||STANWOOD 4|
|2010||US Senator||STANWOOD 5|
|2010||US Senator||STANWOOD 6|
|2010||US Senator||STANWOOD 7|
|2010||US Senator||TULALIP 1|
|2010||US Senator||TULALIP 2|
|2010||US Senator||TULALIP 3|
|2010||US Senator||TULALIP 4|
|2010||US Senator||TULALIP 5|
|2010||US Senator||TULALIP 6|
|US Senator Total|
|2009||County Council 1||STANWOOD 1|
|2009||County Council 1||STANWOOD 2|
|2009||County Council 1||STANWOOD 3|
|2009||County Council 1||STANWOOD 4|
|2009||County Council 1||STANWOOD 5|
|2009||County Council 1||STANWOOD 6|
|2009||County Council 1||STANWOOD 7|
|2009||County Council 1||TULALIP 1|
|2009||County Council 1||TULALIP 2|
|2009||County Council 1||TULALIP 3|
|2009||County Council 1||TULALIP 4|
|2009||County Council 1||TULALIP 5|
|2009||County Council 1||TULALIP 6|
|County Council 1 Total|
|2008||US Representative||STANWOOD 1|
|2008||US Representative||STANWOOD 2|
|2008||US Representative||STANWOOD 3|
|2008||US Representative||STANWOOD 4|
|2008||US Representative||STANWOOD 5|
|2008||US Representative||TULALIP 1|
|2008||US Representative||TULALIP 2|
|2008||US Representative||TULALIP 3|
|2008||US Representative||TULALIP 4|
|2008||US Representative||TULALIP 5|
|2008||US Representative||TULALIP 6|
|US Representative Total|
The only election that had a majority vote for the Republican was the last county council race.
It would be wrong to characterize District 1 as a “Republican” district, even though the incumbent council member is a Republican. Before being elected to Congress, Hon. Rick Larsen (2nd Congressional District, Democrat) represented District 1 on the Snohomish County Council.
You can characterize the 2010 US Representative race as a race between the former (Hon. Rick Larsen) and current District 1 (Hon. John Koster) member on the Snohomish County Council. No wonder it was so close.
Plan 7 improves Plan 4 by making it look less like an effort to remove Republican voters from District 1. I am very pleased to see Plan 4 improved this way.