WA Redistricting: Communities of Color Push for Fair Representation

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OLYMPIA, Wash. — As the Washington State Redistricting Commission considers drawing new lines for voting districts, a coalition of groups is urging greater representation for people of color.

Kamau Chege, director of the Washington Community Alliance, which is part of the coalition Redistricting Justice for Washington.

Chege noted people of color make up about one-third of the state’s population. However, as the maps are currently drawn, they are the majority in only one of the state’s ten congressional districts, and only 2% of state legislative districts.

“They really amplify the power of the white electorate much more than what is proportional to their population,” Chege asserted. “And they really disempower voters of color and communities of color.”

The Washington State Redistricting Commission held a public meeting this week with four proposed maps for state legislative districts. It holds a public meeting on its four proposed congressional district maps on Saturday. The public can submit comments while the commission makes its decisions.

The Redistricting Justice for Washington coalition has proposed one congressional map and five state legislative maps. Chege emphasized a major focus for the coalition is Yakima County, where a district line cuts through the Yakama reservation.

“Which in 2010 was split between the 14th and 15th legislative district,” Chege noted. “Which meant that the power of their votes were diluted, since they’re not able to vote in concert and organize with the rest of the Yakama Nation.”

The coalition argued the previous district map, in 2010, also divided and diluted Latino voters in Yakima County.

Chege added the U.S. system for redistricting is different from many other countries.

“Most industrialized countries have a system of proportional representation,” Chege observed. “Where if you’re 30% of the population, you’re able to win 30% of the seats, and that’s something that everybody understands.”

The commission’s deadline to release its final maps is Nov. 15.

Featured photo: A 2010 district map may have diluted the political clout of Latino and Native American voters in Yakima, Wash. (Andrew Black/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

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