Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Voter on the Borderlands

So Washington State has announced its new congressional borders, with the introduction of a 10th district and a shoving around of most of the others. And I'm not quite sure where I belong yet, but regardless, I resolve to not be happy about it.

So here's the story of how this happens. We have a Census which determines the population. Then we have a team made up of Democrats and Republicans who are supposed to come up with new borders for the congressional districts - dividing Washington into ten equal population parts, since we just picked up a seat. Their deadline is the first of the year.

By the way, one of the things learned watching the Ken Burns picture on Prohibition is that the "Dry" forces successfully staved off reapportionment for six years after the 1920 census, effectively suppressing and under-representing the wetter, urban areas. So yeah, the whole redistricting thing is major. But I digress.

Drawing up the boundaries is a balancing act of multiple needs. Adequate representation is an ultimate goal. But each party wants to keep its incumbents safe. Individual politicians want to make sure that their house is in their new district (or that the house of a rival is in a different district, or best of all in the district of another rival entirely). Certain budgetary plums should be kept. And there is a desire for a majority/minority area, where there are not as many white folks (and to be honest, we have a lot of said folks in Congress already, and it really hasn't worked out that well). The end result has horsetrading, backroom dealing, inter and intra-party realpolitik, and once presented, no one is really happy with the result.

And that's the case for me, even though I'm not EXACTLY sure where I am yet.

According to the map from the paper and on the various sites, Grubbstreet is on the border between the 8th and 9th District. But map is of such a large scale that I don't know which side I would be on. Going to the main site requires Google Earth, which I am not putting on (if only because I put it one once, several machines ago, and had the devil of the time with it. It may have improved by now but I am resistant).

If I am on the 8th side, that would be sad, since I would condemned to have Dave "dances with the one that brung him" Reichert as my rep for as long as he wants the job. Mr. R has survived some close shaves (for an incumbent) for the past few elections, but as a result of this redistricting, he has lost the northern, more liberal chunk of his territory, and has seen his district jump the Cascades and include more friendly and conservative climes. Now freed of keeping his enviro creds up (he once told a bunch of supporters that it was all for show), it will be interesting to see how his views change. In an ironic world, he would get primaried by a Tea Party candidate that finds him too tree-huggery.

If I am on 9th side, that would irritate me as well, since the 9th is the "majority-minority" district, where the Caucasian population is only 49%. It feels partially like a self-esteem award and partially like a bit of political ghettoization. The Washington State nonwhite population is hardly monolithic in its voting habits and political views, and it feels like a lot of different goals have been shoved into one territory just for the purpose of political theater. Adam Smith is the Rep for this district, and he's also going to be around for a while.

So I am in one or the other, and each new district smells of sulfurous intrigue. My plan on how to handle the redistricting (and you know I would have one) would be to create a computer program that would start in one of the four (roughly) corners of the state and state counting people. Each time you reach a tenth of the population, you create a new district. Then you'd iterate the map so they would be roughly uniform in shape. You'd end up with four maps (one from each corner), and then vote on those maps. The areas might be funny-looking, but no worse than the gerrymander we currently see when we let politicians set their own boundaries.

More later,

Update: AHAH! I found a PDF on the state site which allowed me to definitely put myself in District 9. It looks like the eastern border of the district is nearby Soos Creek, which puts all of Renton and northern Kent in the 9th, and pushes unincorporated Fairwood over into the 8th. Have fun with that, guys.