Your Role in Redistricting WA
By Guest Columnist Nancy Churchill
In a recent episode of the Dan Bongino podcast, Dan interviewed Texas Senator Brian Birdwell, who came on the show to share his near-death experience at the Pentagon on 9/11/2001. Dan was extremely moved by hearing about Senator Birdwell’s experience, noting that nothing in his life experience compared to the adversity that the senator experienced that day and has overcome since then.
In response, Senator Birdwell said something remarkable: “Everybody has their lane that they’re working… We all work our respective lanes… I was working my lane… You were working your lane… don’t ever sell your service short.” That idea really inspired me. What’s my lane? What’s OUR lane? What can the everyday, busy, working person do to help to save and restore our constitutional republic? How can our efforts make a difference in the current cultural and political battle that we see happening every day? It helps to remember that even if it doesn’t seem like we can do very much, or even if what we can do doesn’t have an obvious or dramatic impact—we all have an important role to play.
This leads me to a battle that is taking place right now and under the radar in Washington state. It seems really technical and tedious, but the battle of redistricting is one battle that needs to be won in order to work towards restoring election integrity. What is redistricting and how can you help turn the tide towards free and fair elections?
After each census is published, the boundaries we use for voting districts need to be adjusted to re-balance the number of voters in each district. If we didn’t adjust for the natural movement of people, we would eventually end up with some districts that had many more voters than other districts. That would dilute the votes of the people in the more densely populated districts. In theory, we all should have an equal voice.
In Washington state, we have a unique process for redistricting. An independent redistricting commission draws the new maps. They will propose maps for the new state legislative districts (for state elections) and the new congressional districts (for national elections). This commission is composed of two Democratic commissioners, and two Republican commissioners and a non-voting chair. After a series of public hearings, each commissioner releases a proposed redistricting map. To pass, each map has to be approved by three of the commissioners.
Last week, the maps for the proposed new legislative districts were released. The maps released by the two Republican members adhere to the spirit of the state and federal redistricting laws, which mandate several criteria including that boundaries must be drawn to “provide fair and effective representation, encourage electoral competition, and do not purposely favor or discriminate against any political party or group” (https://www.redistricting.wa.gov/frequently-asked-questions).
Commissioner Graves and Commissioner Fain released maps that are roughly based on the existing maps with an emphasis on creating more competitive districts. If the maps are fair, it’s better for the voters. In his statement, Commissioner Graves suggests a major reason our politics are so polarized is because we have so many non-competitive districts. Graves’s map increases the overall number of competitive districts—those within three percent of 50/50—to 11, nearly doubling the current six swing districts.
The Democrats, on the other hand, proposed maps that are extreme examples of gerrymandering. They drew 16 safe Republican districts and 30 safe Democrat districts. They took some competitive districts, like the 10th and the 42nd, and by splitting cities and crossing the Puget Sound, magically created three safe Democratic districts! They’re not interested in competitiveness, they’re interested in consolidating their power base for the next 10 years! Back to US… what’s OUR lane in this redistricting battle?
Elections are all about the numbers. You can complain about how things are and be angry and frustrated. But we have an opportunity to do something more here. Something that makes a difference. Our lane is not glamorous or complicated, but it is vital that we reach out to the commissioners with our comments! You can leave a comment on this web page, https://www.redistricting.wa.gov/submit-public-testimony, or you can email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you want fair elections and equal representation? The last thing we need is for the commission to throw elections to one party or another by gerrymandering Washington state. Let the commissioners know you want competitive districts just like the law requires! Ask them to create more districts that are competitive. Send your public comment right now, before you do anything else! Don’t ever sell your service short! Stay in your lane, and do your part to work toward fair elections!
Nancy Churchill is the state committeewoman for the Ferry County Republican Party. She may be reached at DangerousRhetoric@pm.me. The opinions expressed in Dangerous Rhetoric are her own.