Camas-Washougal residents interested in the boundaries of Washington’s 3rd Congressional District will soon have an opportunity to testify before the Washington State Redistricting Commission.
The Commission will hold a virtual meeting via Zoom from 7 to 9 p.m. June 14, for 3rd District residents.
“The meeting is a chance for people to let the commissioners know they want to make sure election boundaries are drawn in a way that ensures fairness and equity,” said Alan Unell, a member of the Clark County League of Women Voters who has been leading the local League’s efforts to help people prepare to testify before the redistricting commission. “The drawing of election boundaries is a key element of making sure voices are heard and that communities are well represented in elections.”
Washington state reviews its legislative districts every 10 years in an attempt to ensure each district has about the same number of residents and to make sure every person — or at least those of voting age — is represented fairly in the state Legislature and in Congress.
Unell explained that while many states allow the state legislature to control redistricting boundaries, Washington state is one of 10 states that have an independent body in charge of redistricting.
“There are 37 states where the legislatures draw the maps,” Unell said, adding that this way of drawing political boundaries — which can lead to gerrymandering — is much like “the fox guarding the hen house” and can cause situations like the 2018 election in Michigan, where Democrats won statewide seats by a comfortable margin, but lost control of the state House thanks to heavily gerrymandered boundary lines redrawn after the 2010 U.S. Census that dispersed Democrat voters in many districts and handed political victories to Republican candidates in districts that had previously skewed Democratic or been a toss up between both parties.
Unell, who joined the local League of Women Voters with his wife after moving to Clark County in 2019, said the nonpartisan League is interested in redistricting because “the more fair you make the redistricting, the more fair you make our democracy.”
Competitive districts where voters are more evenly split tend to have politicians who will listen to their constituents — regardless of their party affiliation — because the representative will know “their jobs aren’t locked in,” Unell added.
For people who are interested in weighing in on this year’s redistricting efforts in the 3rd District, which stretches from the Washington coast to the central Washington Columbia River Gorge and reaches into Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Pacific, Skamania, Thurston and Wahkiakum counties, Unell said the Commission offers a variety of ways to testify: from testifying in person over Zoom to submitting written testimony in a wide variety of languages.
Unell recommends five steps for submitting effective testimony at the June 14 meeting: Give your credentials such as you are, where you live and any other relevant information; tell the Commission what critical issues you care about that might be impacted by redistricting; tell them why you care (“maybe you can’t get your representative to listen to you about health care” Unell said); tell the Commission why this issue is so important to you and what will happen if they don’t fix the situation; then ask the Commission for a solution.
Unell suggests writing a 200- to 300-word testimony down and either making a video or audio recording to submit on June 14.
The five-member Commission, which includes four voting members — two Democrats and two Republicans — and one non-voting member selected by bipartisan lawmakers, will hold public hearings in all 10 of the state’s congressional districts.
“It is important that people testify to ensure their district is fair and equitable,” Unell said.
To learn more about the state’s redistricting process and the public hearings, visit redistricting.wa.gov/commission-m eetings. People who want to give testimony at the June 14 hearing must register in advance at bit.ly/3g5s0iG.
For more information about the state’s 2021 redistricting process, visit redistricting.wa.gov. The June 14 public outreach meeting can be viewed online at tvw.org.