A new House seat for the state

  • Sat Oct 2nd, 2010 10:28pm
  • News

By Bill Sheets Herald Writer

OLYMPIA — Today, Snohomish County is served by two people in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 2012, that number could increase.

According to projections based on early 2010 Census returns, Washington state is in line to receive a 10th congressional seat.

The numbers won’t be official until the end of the year, and it’s uncertain where the new district would go. A panel will be appointed by state legislators next year to do the work, with the changes to take effect for the 2012 elections.

According to the Washington Secretary of State’s office, early 2010 Census numbers project Washington’s 2010 population at up to 6.7 million — an increase of more than 12 percent. There were about 5.9 million people here in 2000.

The state’s population is believed to have grown by at least 770,000 people. Based on projections, states that experience an increase in population of 740,911 or more will pick up a congressional seat, said David Ammons, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office.

Much of that population increase is in the central Puget Sound area, he said.

“We continue to be guardedly optimistic that we’ll pick up another seat in Congress, which will give us a greater voice in Washington, D.C.,” Secretary of State Sam Reed said in a statement.

Redistricting is required every 10 years to make sure the 435 House seats are divided as equally as possible by population.

Each decade, some states gain and some states lose based on shifts in population.

In addition to Washington, states that appear headed toward picking up one seat each in 2012 are Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and Utah, Ammons said. Florida could pick up two seats and Texas, four.

States likely to lose a seat are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. New York and Ohio could lose two seats each.

The numbers are based on a report compiled by Election Data Services of Manassas, Va.

Washington gained its eighth congressional seat in 1980 and its ninth in 1990.

The early 2010 figures show that four Washington congressional districts grew in population and five declined, Ammons said. Of the two districts covered by Snohomish County, the 1st District is slightly behind the pace and the 2nd District is slightly ahead.

The 8th District in King and Pierce counties and the 3rd District in southwest Washington are well ahead of population in other districts, Ammons said.

“As other districts are moving around like an amoeba, all districts will change in some fashion,” he said. Boundaries for the two Snohomish County districts “are part of the action for sure.”

Once the Census numbers are official in January 2011, the Republican and Democratic party leaders in each chamber of the Legislature — four people altogether — will appoint one person apiece to serve on a redistricting commission.

Each must appoint a non-elected official but someone with ties to or history with the Democratic or Republican party to assure that the parties are equally represented on the board. The four selected then appoint a fifth, non-partisan non-voting member.

The group will spend most of 2011 studying the district boundaries, including conducting meetings and public hearings around the state. Three of the four voting members must agree on the final plan before it is sent to the Legislature in January 2012 for approval. State legislative boundaries will be redrawn as well, but the number of districts will stay the same.

Usually, the commission tries to keep the lines as close as possible to where they were before, Ammons said.

Still, “there’s always some change, and it seems pretty dramatic this year.”

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

For more information on the redistricting process, visit http://bit.ly/c7XEEr. For more information on the history of congressional representation in Washington state, visit http://bit.ly/9yOUBe.