As officials begin redrawing the boundaries of Seattle’s seven City Council districts, community groups are working to increase public participation in the process, warning that how the lines are drawn will shape representation in City Hall for years to come.
The Washington Supreme Court decided Friday, Dec. 3, that district maps approved last month by the Washington State Redistricting Commission can proceed to lawmakers for review despite the commission missing a key deadline by 13 minutes.
The court, which by law is supposed to adopt its own redistricting plan in cases where the redistricting commission misses its deadline, punted the redistricting issue back to the commission. In an order signed by all nine justices, the court said that “the primary purpose of achieving a timely redistricting plan would be impeded, not advanced, by rejecting the Commission’s completed work.”
Washington’s redistricting process has entered uncharted territory following a State commission’s failure to approve an updated plan before its final deadline on Monday, Nov. 15. The task of deciding political boundaries for the next decade now falls to the State Supreme Court.
It’s the first time ever under the State’s redistricting process that the role will be played by justices, who have until April 30 of next year to adopt a new plan. Normally, the boundaries are set by the Legislature.
Every 10 years, officials undertake a great political balancing act that profoundly — but almost invisibly — determines the value of your voice in democracy. By redrawing voting districts at the state and local levels, they set boundaries that will influence elections for the next decade.
The process, known as redistricting, is fundamental to the idea of representation in politics. How lines are drawn determines who votes in a given district, which in turn determines which candidates get elected, what laws are passed, and how public money is spent.
A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
ICYMI: King County’s Proof of Vaccination Requirements for Recreational Activities
Last week, Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Durchin issued a Health Order that will require people to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in order to participate in recreational activities in most public spaces.
From Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC): “Beginning Monday, Oct. 25, people in King County will be required to show proof of vaccination in a number of public places, such as:
Outdoor events with 500 or more people
Indoor recreational activities of any size, such as performances, movie theaters, conferences, or gyms
Indoors at bars and restaurants (outdoor dining, grocery stores, and take-out are exempt).”
If you have lived in King County for more than ten years, you wouldn’t need the 2020 U.S. Census data to notice the radical shift of demographics in Seattle. As the city’s population drastically grew over the past two decades, many low-income BIPOC families were displaced due to gentrification. I experienced this phenomenon firsthand in 2010, when my family was pushed from the Central District to South Seattle. Now much of my extended family lives outside of Seattle altogether. I am one of many Seattleites who takes hardcore pride in my city — but seeing my loved ones suffer from gentrification made me question if the Emerald City was as progressive as it claims to be.
Like many other families, we have encountered unforeseen issues with housing and job security. As a child, I was separated from familiar neighborhoods and many of my friends. At an early age, I began to feel like our city’s politicians did not care about the people in my community.
The impacts of gentrification and how it disproportionately affected my community inspired my passion for activism at Rainier Beach High School. I became Student Body President and Vice President of the Black Student Union to convene often with school clubs and local organizations, gaining knowledge on issues our community was facing. The focus of conversations regarding gentrification was on the skyrocketing rent prices and the limited support for BIPOC-owned businesses. But I had no idea that there is more to blame for gentrification than the unyielding housing market and Boeing. I was unaware of the severe lack of representation of BIPOC individuals in our local and statewide government, and I did not know how essential it was to have people making decisions for our communities accurately reflect those communities.