By Susanna Ray
State Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, is likely going to be drawn out of his district in the new map of legislative and congressional districts that’s due out Saturday.
Not only that, but Everett voters face the possibility of being moved from the 2nd to the 1st Congressional District —something that infuriated locals so much when it was attempted two decades ago, they managed to reverse it by suing the state in federal court.
And Snohomish County will likely get another legislative district added to the six it already wholly or partially has within its borders.
These are just some of the major changes under way as five redistricting commissioners — two Democrats, two Republicans and one chairman — put the finishing touches on the contentious map. They have to come up with a compromise by midnight Saturday.
The process occurs every 10 years after new Census figures come out. Each district is supposed to have a roughly equal number of people in it. The lines are supposed to be drawn in a way that doesn’t divide communities.
They’re also supposed to allow lawmakers to adequately represent constituents. For example, if a district is a drastic mix of rural and urban areas, the representatives might be spread too thin to fight for everyone’s interests.
For Dunshee’s 39th Legislative District, that equality mandate means a bunch of trees will likely replace many of the people currently within its borders.
The 39th District was the second-fastest growing district in the state over the past decade (the 17th District in the Vancouver area was first). So the commissioners are thinking about moving the border further east from I-5 and then adding all of rural eastern Skagit County, as well. That would reduce the number of constituents, but it would be a huge increase in land size.
The move would push Snohomish, where Dunshee lives, into the 44th District for next year’s elections. Dunshee said he’d probably stay put in that case and just run against Rep. Dave Schmidt, R-Bothell, next year, rather than buy a new home to stay in the 39th.
"I just finished the bathroom and the new woodstove hearth," Dunshee said, "so I don’t think my wife would allow me to move."
The district’s other representative, Republican Kirk Pearson of Monroe, also lives on the border and therefore is at risk. Plans the commissioners are currently considering keep him within the district, although one plan would split Monroe in half.
In other local legislative districts, the 38th and 21st both need to take in more constituents.
The Tulalip Reservation will probably be moved from the 10th to the 38th. The 1st will probably be pushed mostly into Snohomish County, leaving a little bit in King County so as not to dislocate two of its lawmakers who live in Bothell.
And the 32nd, which is currently wholly within King County, would probably balloon upward to take in a tiny corner of Snohomish County.
The 2nd Congressional District needs to lose about 10 percent of its population to make it equal with the rest of the state’s districts. Those constituents will likely be absorbed by the 1st District.
But how to cut the pie promises to be an issue of contention.
Does Everett fit better with cities in the urbanized southwest corner of Snohomish County, such as Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace, or with cities within the largely rural areas that make up the rest of the district, like Mount Vernon and Bellingham?
"Some people say historically, Everett’s the core of the 2nd District, and that’s true … but lines change," said Commissioner Dick Derham, a Republican. "Everett will be the largest city of the district, wherever it is, but where does it fit best? That’s the question.
"In my view, the differences between Everett and Lynnwood are not as great as the differences between Everett and Mount Vernon," Derham said.
Everett Mayor Ed Hansen disagrees. He asked the commission to keep the city in the 2nd District, saying Everett shares more common interests with those northern cities because they’re all county seats.
Political wrangling comes into big play here: Moving Everett would take away the district’s Democratic voting base for freshman U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who’s up for re-election next year.
So Democrats would rather chop off the bottom strip all the way across Snohomish County and add it to the 1st District instead. That would put small towns such as Gold Bar and Index in the same district with Lynnwood, Bothell and Bainbridge Island.
You can call Herald Writer Susanna Ray at 425-339-3439
or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maps, proposals and more information are available on the Web at www.redistricting.wa.gov.