How the Republicans and Democrats Accomplish Gerrymandering in Washington State
Every ten years the Washington State Redistricting Commission convenes to redraw the lines of our Legislative and Congressional Districts. The Commission consists of two members appointed by the Democratic Party hierarchy and two appointed by the Republican Party hierarchy. These four individuals elect a non-voting chair. With the voting members equally balanced between Democrats and Republicans, the two parties have to agree on how to draw the lines. And they do. How? By divvying up the Districts between them. Roughly half are allocated to the Republicans and half to the Democrats. In the case of the Legislative Districts half a dozen are left in the middle, and in these districts there is an actual contest. Otherwise, in 80% of the Legislative Districts and in all of the Congressional Districts the result has been predetermined by the Redistricting Commission for ten years in advance.
- The largest political grouping among the voters – the Independents who do not consider themselves attached to either corporate party – are not represented on the Commission.
- Beginning in 2008, the Top Two primary has prevailed in Washington State elections. The voters liked this kind of primary because they could participate without having to declare party affiliation. The Top Two primary made it possible for independent voters to vote in primaries and kept the party affiliation of all voters private.
Note: if we had Ranked Choice Voting elections we could dispense with the primary entirely, and voters’ choices would both be carried through more completely and not be restricted arbitrarily in the general election to two candidates, who have turned out to be nothing but the two corporate parties’ candidates. We would also be able to get rid of gerrymandering.
Over the last two redistricting cycles Washingtonians have elected a total of 75 Congressional representatives. In all those elections only once did the party to which the Redistricting Commission had assigned a District fail to win. That was when Jaime Herrera Beutler beat Denny Heck in District 3 in 2010. There have also been two instances where both candidates in the general election were from the party to whom the Redistricting Commission had made the gift. These were in the Fourth District, where only Republicans got to the general election in 2014 and 2016.