How is Washington’s Redistricting Commission structured? What does it do? What policies and legal requirements guide its processes? Why should every citizen care about redistricting, and how can we best impact a fair outcome?
At a March 4, 2021 general meeting, 20 League members explored the history of redistricting and its affect on political power dynamics, particularly involving efforts to protect incumbents and suppress competition in elections, practiced by both parties. Our basic education was guided by a fun and interactive program presented by Alison McCaffree, the executive director of the non-partisan Politics of the Possible in Action, and Redistricting Chair of LWVWA. Alison’s expertise and enthusiasm for the subject, and her use of Zoom chat, breakout rooms and polls, helped clarify many of the complexities of redistricting.
Exploring the history of Washington and other states, we learned about the often ludicrous effects of gerrymandering to minimize the voting power of particular communities. We also discussed how other laws, such as the Voting Rights Act, impact how boundaries are redrawn to reflect the change in population. Another consideration is how the “pencil and paper” data gathering of the 1960s that informed the Commission’s mission has been replaced by massive data collection and computational models from myriad sources, including social media. We all agreed that more information is a positive goal, but carries unintended consequences as well.
At the close of the presentation, Alison offered some suggestions about how we can participate in, and possibly testify before, the Redistricting Commission. The Redistricting 101 program is the first episode of the Speak Up School, out of a total of 7 modules. Information on the schools and Commission meetings can be found by clicking here.
If you would like to see some of the specific information from the forum. take a look at the Redistricting Forum Toolkit that is posted on the LWVWA website.