Currently, Washington state is made up of more than one-quarter people of color. In King County, about one in three is a person of color.
The concern is whether their voices will be fully heard over the next 10 years, or whether their voices will be tempered.
Last Tuesday, the Washington State Redistricting Commission held its last public forum; Washington state residents were able to talk with members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission and chime in with their two cents about where the new district boundary lines should be drawn.
Every 10 years, coinciding with new U.S. Census data, the state redraws its congressional and legislative boundaries to account for the shifting and changing population. We have learned that Washington’s population grew enough over the last 10 years that the state has gained a 10th seat in Congress. We also saw significant growth in communities of color.
For these communities, the concern is whether the new lines, which will be in existence for the next 10 years, will splinter them up and dilute their voices, or keep them united and keep their voices strong in a particular district.
For instance, say a city is 50 percent people of color and the surrounding area is predominantly non-Hispanic white. This city could potentially be split in two, with 25 percent going to District A and the other 25 percent going to District B. Both districts would be about 75 percent non-Hispanic white, and rather than having 50 percent say in one district, the communities of color would be effectively outnumbered, with only 25 percent say, spread over two districts.
When this happens, it sends the message to certain communities that the rest of us don’t really care what they think. In turn, it makes it difficult for these communities to become and stay engaged in local politics or for its members to become community and civic leaders. Instead, the communities shrink inward and become insular.
Over the next week or so, the Commission will be looking over third party plans, plans that concerned citizens and community leaders have suggested and submitted. By mid-September, the commission will have released its draft for the districts, after which, there will be a two-week public comment period.
It is not too late to submit your own plan, or to voice your thoughts before the commission starts considering third party plans.
Visit www.redistricting.wa.gov to submit a question, comment, or a redistricting recommendation. You can also contact the commission by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 360-786-0770. United for Fair Representation has some great templates for letters that you can send to the commission, as well as an online petition you can sign. Visit them at www.fairrepresentation.org. ♦