There was a misleading and poorly thought out editorial in the Thursday Seattle Times regarding our method for re-dictricting in Washington. Luke Esser and Dwight Pelz wrote the following letter-to-the-editor as a response. It will run next week.
Washington should enact changes to rules governing legislative redistricting
Letter To The Editor
The guest editorial on legislative redistricting by Bill Finkbeiner and Krist Novoselic emits an hysterical alarm for a phantom problem. They charge that “Washington needs to put in place safeguards against the abuse of our imperfect system. . . . .and wrest control of our democracy from the hands of the political parties.” They refer to the political parties’ “raw lust for heavy power.” It sounds like a steamy romance novel.
The calm truth is that Washington has a balanced, bipartisan redistricting system that is the envy of the nation. It was brought about as the result of a citizen initiative passed overwhelmingly in the 1980’s, and it has served our state well in the years since. Each majority and minority leader of the State Senate and State House appoints one member of a civilian Redistricting Commission. A fifth, nonvoting member is appointed by the four voting members to serve as chair. The result historically has been a fair map which favors neither party.
Re-districting can be a shameful exercise in partisan political power in other states. In overwhelmingly Republican states the Republican majority can draw the new districts with no input from Democrats. In overwhelmingly Democratic states the Democratic majority can draw the new lines with no input from Republicans. But in Washington neither party can force their will on the other. The bipartisan members of the Redistricting Commission either have to agree on a map that is fair to all, or the responsibility for drawing the lines is turned over to our State Supreme Court. It’s hard to imagine a system that could be more fair or ethical.
The voters got it right when they passed our current redistricting system into law. This system promotes openness, cooperation and bipartisanship. Our state’s process for redistricting not only isn’t broken, it’s a shining example of good government that other states would do well to copy.
Dwight Pelz is the Chair of the Washington State Democratic PartyLuke Esser is the Chair of the Washington State Republican Party