New district boundaries effective immediately
The King County Districting Committee on Tuesday, Nov. 15 unanimously approved new King County Council district boundaries. The district plan has been filed with the Clerk of the Council and is effective immediately. Plan materials are available online.
“The Committee reached unanimous agreement on this plan thanks to the members’ commitment to work together, follow an open process, and truly listen to the communities of King County,” said Chair Terrence Carroll. “Public testimony was a cornerstone of our process: it raised new ideas, helped us better understand communities of interest, and enabled us to come together around common principles.”
At each stage of the Committee’s ten month long process, the members requested ideas and input from the public. The Committee provided more than 20 opportunities for in-person comment, including eight public hearings held at locations across King County. More than 80 people testified in person and over 160 provided written testimony. The Committee also reached out to elected officials from all 39 cities and the County’s state legislators asking for them to share their expertise and insight on the communities they represent.
Testimony resulted in numerous changes to the rough drafts released in June. For example, the Committee revised earlier drafts in order to keep the north-end suburban cities in one district and also made changes to keep all the Snoqualmie Valley cities in one district, specifically including unincorporated areas south of North Bend. Important changes were also made to re-unite communities of interest, including the Skyway/West Hill area and the Beacon Hill community.
The Committee also adopted internal rules to encourage unprecedented transparency in their process. For instance, “Rule 5” required Committee members to disclose at a public Committee meeting the substance and context of any contacts with County Councilmembers, the County Executive, or any of their staff or representatives. Also to promote openness, several of the committee’s public meetings were work sessions where Committee members worked interactively with the Districting Master to explore their redistricting ideas.
“No districting plan can be perfect, but the Committee made every effort to conduct its business openly, to listen to the public and use their ideas when possible, and to draw districts that truly serve the people of King County,” said Chair Carroll.
Council district boundaries must be redrawn after each U.S. Census to make each district as nearly equal in population as possible. All districts in the approved plan are within one-quarter of one percent of the 2011 Council district target population of 214,583.
Minority population within King County has significantly increased over the past decade. Under the newly adopted plan, every district is more diverse than it was when the prior plan was approved in 2005. Two of the new Council districts are about half people of color (District 2 is 50% and District 5 is 49%) and two additional districts are about two-fifths people of color (District 8 is 42% and District 7 is 39%).
Under the law, the new district boundaries must be compact, contiguous, and composed of economic and geographic units. To the extent feasible, the districts must correspond with the boundaries of existing municipalities, election precincts, census tracts, recognized natural boundaries, and preserve communities of related and mutual interest. Population data may not be used for the purposes of favoring or disfavoring any racial group or political party.
The County Charter places sole responsibility for redistricting with the independent, citizen Districting Committee. The Committee Chair is mediator, law professor, and retired Superior Court Judge Terrence Carroll. The other members are Rod Dembowski, John Jensen, Sally Nelson, and Sally Poliak. The contracted Districting Master (GIS expert) is John Schlosser of Schlosser Geographic Systems, Inc.