The population of Pierce County is changing. Its political borders? Probably not so much.
Elected officials and political consultants told The News Tribune that while there has been an increase in population in the state’s second largest county, little is expected to change as the state prepares. redrawing political boundaries, a process known as redistribution.
“We will always be a swing county with a large, diverse city and large, more rural areas â, According to Republican political consultant Alex Hays.
In the most recent data collected by the US Census Bureau last year, Pierce County’s population grew from 795,628 in 2010 to 921,130 in 2020, an increase of 15.7%.
Pierce County was not the only region to experience a population boom. While the U.S. Census reported that the nation has grown at its slowest rate in the past decade since the 1930s, Washington’s overall population has grown at a rate of 14.6%.
The redistribution occurs once every ten years after the US Census of the nation’s population. Political boundaries need to be redrawn to ensure that all districts have as many inhabitants as possible.
This time around, with most Washington counties welcoming more residents, the increase in population is largely offset by the redistribution.
Pierce County Council Chairman Derek Young (D-Gig Harbor) and State Representative JT Wilcox (R-Yelm) have said they believe Washington’s redistribution processes are bipartisan.
âGerrymandering is one of the things people lose faith in government for,â Young said. “Politics shouldn’t choose voters – voters should choose politicians.”
In other states like Texas and Maryland, large party majorities give Republicans and Democrats, respectively, full control of the redistribution process, which is carried out by the state legislature, not a commission. bipartisan as in Washington.
Federal and state districts
To determine new boundaries for the state and congressional districts, House and Senate leaders from the Democratic and Republican parties chose four voting members – two Democrats and two Republicans.
The four voting members, called state redistribution commissioners, then select a fifth non-voting chair to head the Washington State Redistribution Commission. By November 15, the commission is to draw new district lines in accordance with state law. Districts should be as equal as possible in population and avoid dividing cities and political subdivisions. The state legislature can make minor changes to the maps, but the governor has no role.
State Redistribution Commissioners released their four congressional map proposals on September 28.
The biggest change could be the representation of Tacoma. Tacoma is now divided among congressional districts. The city largely belongs to District 6 of United States Representative Derek Kilmer, but the southeast corner of the city is in District 10 of United States Representative Marilyn Strickland. The Port of Tacoma is in District 9 of US Representative Adam Smith.
Most maps are similar keeping District 6 in the north, District 10 extending over Tacoma to Lakewood and District 8 in East Pierce County, but two keep Tacoma in District 6 and two place Tacoma. in District 10.
The latest redistribution gave Pierce County three Congressional Districts, Districts 6, 8 and 10. The four proposed Congressional maps give Pierce three or four districts. Two maps give District 3 a fourth seat, stretching from Thurston County to Roy and Eatonville.
Republican Minority Leader Wilcox, Ben Anderstone and Young of Progressive Strategies NW don’t think much will change.
Wilcox helped select one of the redistribution commissioners. He said the districts would largely keep their incumbents and not move much.
âThe differences are more subtle,â he told The News Tribune.
At the state level, many were surprised that Seattle did not grow as exponentially as expected.
Political consultants said there wouldn’t be such a big push to move more seats to King County. Currently, King County has 17 state district seats. The cards offered keep this amount or add one more. Seattle’s population has grown 18 percent over the past decade.
âWe had talked about a Seattle domino effect, but there was less domino effect than we had estimated,â Anderstone said.
Pierce County currently has eight legislative seats. According to four maps proposed by the committee, one divides Pierce County into seven districts, two divides the county into eight lanes, and another divides Pierce into nine seats.
The county could share three to five state seats with Kitsap, King, Thurston and Yakima counties. Currently, Pierce shares a seat with each King, Kitsap and Thurston.
Both parties want Pierce to have fewer seats shared with other counties.
âWe may see less division, and that’s the goal of keeping the municipalities intact,â Anderstone said. “I think population growth in both the state and Pierce County will mean a little less division for the seats.”
Pierce County Districts
For the seven seats on Pierce County Council, the process is slightly different. The council chooses four commissioners – two from each party – from a list provided by each party. The four commissioners choose a fifth member to chair the committee.
The board appointed the four members on September 7. The committee has until November 4 to appoint a district master, who is responsible for drawing the redistribution map. Once selected, the teacher has 60 days to draw up a plan to submit to the committee for approval. It takes four of the five members to change anything in the plan.
âIt’s not just bipartisan, he insists on bipartism. If they can’t agree on a change, no change can be made, âYoung said.
The Pierce County auditor’s office is limited to adjusting constituencies after the redistribution is complete, auditor Julie Anderson said.
Young said the deadline was surprisingly tighter this year as the coronavirus pandemic pushed back data collection for the US Census Bureau, delaying the data release date.
âWe were training,â he said.
The map is in the works, but little is expected to change, according to Young and political consultants.
âI guess the districts are pretty big. Yes, there have been growth patterns, but that shouldn’t make any crazy changes. Maybe some 1,000 people in each district, and that can rock the election, but not a huge difference, âYoung said.
This story was originally published October 24, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.