Political Beat

Reed discusses Vancouver activist's redistricting criticisms

Outgoing Secretary of State Sam Reed addressed Vancouver activist John Milem’s redistricting criticisms during Reed’s visit to Vancouver last week.

Milem had filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to overturn the state’s 2012 redistricting plan, which redrew voter boundaries based on 2010 U.S. Census data. Milem, who eventually dropped the case because of health reasons, has said that the way voter districts are drawn in Washington state benefit the politicians more than the people.

The state’s redistricting system was reformed in the 1980s to address that problem, but Milem called those changes little more than “window dressing.” Does Reed see room for improvement in the process?

Not really, Reed said last week. And here’s why: “Every 10 years, all of a sudden a lot of (legislators) could be out of a job simply because of redistricting,” Reed said. “It wouldn’t be fair. You’d lose some people with great institutional knowledge and experience and leadership just because of random lines that are drawn.”

Incumbents changing districts still occasionally happens under current redistricting rules. Just ask state Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, whose home now rests in the 20th District rather than the 18th. Despite the new voter boundaries, Orcutt ran in the 20th District this year and won a new seat in the state House.

Reed also said it’s unrealistic to think political parties wouldn’t be involved in the process, because we have a partisan system.

“The ultimate solution is, if you think that’s desirable, would be to have a (redistricting) commission that can’t take into consideration where the incumbents live,” Reed said. Reed pointed to Iowa as an example.

In Iowa, voter lines are redrawn by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency based on population data and “without regard to party and incumbency,” political science professor Chris Larimer recently told The Gazette in Iowa. “That leaves at least a little bit of competition.”

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics

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