Odd redistricting plan pitched

Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Who says redistricting can’t get creative?

Washington’s citizen Redistricting Commission, charged with rejiggering the state’s legislative and congressional districts by year’s end, is getting some interesting homemade plans to consider.

The one that drew the most attention at the panel’s meeting Thursday was longtime Democratic activist Jim Curdy’s suggestion that congressional districts be drawn in narrow bands from east to west, like layers in a cake.

The intent is for members of Congress to represent people from both sides of the Cascades, rather than a relatively small geographic area, legislative analysts said.

Under Curdy’s plan, districts would stretch from the Pacific Ocean or the San Juan Islands eastward to the Idaho border. The new 9th District, for instance, would stretch from Long Beach to Clarkston, picking up Longview, Vancouver and Walla Walla on the way.

The new 4th would include part of Seattle — and Spokane — and a vast area in between.

Currently there are two Eastern Washington districts, with a north-to-south border dividing the two. Most of Southwest Washington is in the 3rd District. Everett north to the Canadian border is in the 2nd. Much of the Olympic Peninsula, Bremerton and parts of Tacoma are in the 6th. And the other districts are in the Puget Sound region.

The Mattawa man’s plan also would carve up the state into two U.S. Senate districts for the first time. Currently, candidates run statewide and represent the entire state. Both incumbents are from the Seattle area. Curdy uses a north-to-south line from the Canadian border, east of Interstate 5, directly south to the Columbia River in western Klickitat County. This presumably would make it more likely the state would have a senator from Eastern Washington.

Curdy could not be reached for comment.

Commissioners — two Republicans and two Democrats, plus a nonvoting chairman — treated the plan seriously, but offered no public reaction, though there were plenty of smiles in the hearing room.

Commissioner Bobbi Krebs-McMullen, Mount Vernon, later asked staff to prepare a handout for future public meetings describing the legal constraints the commission must observe. Among those is a requirement that districts be compact and convenient, apparently ruling out districts stretching across the state.

Other citizen suggestions the commission received Thursday are more traditional. They propose how to draw legislative district boundaries in Cowlitz County, the Yakima Valley and the 25th District in Pierce County.

A minority coalition plans to submit maps next week, aimed at ensuring minority voting clout isn’t diluted as new districts are created.

Each commissioner will release proposed legislative and congressional district maps at 1 p.m. Sept. 24 in the Cherberg Senate Office Building in Olympia. Hearings are scheduled for Oct. 1 in Centralia, Oct. 5 in Seattle and Oct. 9 in Spokane.

The panel has until Dec. 15 to approve final plans. At least three of the four commissioners must vote in favor. The Legislature can make only minor alterations, and then only with a two-thirds vote in both houses. If the commission fails, the state Supreme Court will draw the maps.

Redistricting Commission: www.redistricting.wa.gov

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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