San Juan County is redrawing its districts

As the nation redraws its legislative districts and voting precincts based on the results of the 2010 federal census, San Juan County will be redrawing its districts too.

“The most difficult aspect of redistricting is establishing the equity of the districts,” wrote auditor Milene Henley in a March 1 auditor’s report.

RCW 29A.76.010 states that each district “shall be as nearly equal in population as possible;” but numbers of registered voters seem to indicate as much as a 55 percent population inequality between the largest and smallest districts, both on San Juan Island. Each voter in the Friday Harbor district, with 1,033 voters, has roughly double the representation of a voter in San Juan North, with 2,318 voters.

Henley has indicated that population is only one factor.

“Considerations in drawing districts, in addition to population, include compactness, geographic contiguity, having recognized natural borders, and the preservation of existing communities of related and mutual interest,” Henley wrote in her report. “It is for these other reasons, especially geographic contiguity and communities of mutual interest, that our current island districts are acceptable.”

She said it is up to a six-member redistricting committee appointed by the county council to decide whether the population inequity is “too great to ignore.”

The committee could change the districts by moving outlying islands from one district to another, re-drawing lines within islands, or joining sections of one island to a district comprised primarily of another island. The county’s 17 existing precincts don’t necessarily limit changes to districts, because precincts follow districts and not vice versa.

The redistricting committee was chosen on April 12: Allen Rosenberg to represent  District 1; David Bayley for District 2; Noel Monin, District 3; Doug Pearson, District 4; Barbara Bentley, District 5; Carl Bender, District 6. They must submit the county’s redistrict plan to Henley by  Dec. 31, 2011.

The Washington state redistricting commission must submit the state plan to the state legislature by Jan. 1, 2012; it must be adopted by Feb. 8, 2012.

The committee’s next meeting will be held in Friday Harbor on Monday, May 23 at 8:30 a.m. All meetings are open to the public.

2010 Census data on population and number of registered voters in San Juan County by district can be found online here.

Registered voters by district

With six districts, a distribution of 16.7% per district would indicate even representation by population.

District 1, San Juan South: 1,989. (17.3%)

District 2, San Juan North: 2,318. (20.1%)

District 3, Friday Harbor: 1,285. (11.2%)

District 4, Orcas West: 2,119. (18.4%)

District 5, Orcas East: 1,644. (14.3%)

District 6, Lopez/Shaw: 2,161. (18.8%)

Total registered voters in all districts: 11,516.