It's not official, but Mercer Island's elected representatives believe redistricting will leave Mercer Island part of the political family of the Eastside, rather than be joined with Seattle after the revealed the 41st District is too large.
Grateful for the chance to meet with constituents outside of the Olympia "bubble" last week, the redistricting was one of the few concerns discussed that seemed to cheer 41st District Senator (R) and Reps. (D) and Marcie Maxwell (D) and residents at a luncheon hosted by the .
"There was a proposal to put us in a district with Seattle, but I'm pretty sure Mercer Island will stay on the Eastside in both the new legislative and congressional districts" Litzow said. "I'm just a freshman legislator in the (Republican) Caucus, but when (senior) Rep. Clibborn heard about that, she wasn't going to let that stand. Mercer Island will stay on the Eastside."
The redistricting of the state legislative and congressional districts are mandated by the U.S. Constitution every 10 years by counting residents to ensure the system of proportional representation. The 2010 Census determined that nearly all the districts in the state grew at different rates and the lines must be redrawn.
With a population of 22,699, in the last decade, but the rest of the 41st District — including parts of Bellevue, Renton, Newcastle and Beaux Arts Village — grew by over 20 percent to 142,722 residents. As a result, the 41st is now too large for the new target population for each district of 137,236, and must shed around 5,486. Meanwhile, the 37th District — which runs along the western shore of Lake Washington from downtown Renton to downtown Seattle — didn't grow fast enough and must add around 10,000 residents. Some lawmakers suggested that switching Mercer Island to the Seattle-based 37th would be an easy solution to rebalancing the voter rolls.
The target number is based on the statewide population of 6,724,540 divided equally among forty-nine Legislative Districts.
Litzow also said Mercer Island could become part of the new 10th U.S. Congressional District, which must be formed because the state gained population faster than other parts of the country. The proposal is to keep Mercer Island paired with larger Eastside cities by moving the 8th District to the south, away from Lake Washington.
Mercer Island is currently part of the U.S. 8th District and is represented by , who maintains the 8th District office on Mercer Island. The 8th grew the fastest of all the state's congressional districts and must lose about 138,300 residents, followed by the 3rd and 4th districts, which all share common boundaries.
Secretary of State Sam Reed empaneled four political appointees in January — two Democrats and two Republicans — to form a Redistricting Commission to draw up new voter boundaries on a map at the beginning of 2012. The commission is led by a chairperson, a fifth non-voting member appointed by the commission.
The Washington State Redistricting Commission has scheduled its public hearings in the following locations:
• Aberdeen: Tuesday, May 17, Grays Harbor College HUB, 1620 Edward P. Smith Drive
• Olympia: Wednesday, May 18, John A. Cherberg Building, 304 15th Ave., Senate Hearing Room 1
• Vancouver: Thursday, May 19, Hilton Vancouver Hotel, 301 West 6th St, Discovery Ballroom ABC
• Renton: Monday, May 23, Renton, Renton Technical College cafeteria, 3000 NE 4th St.
• Bellevue: Tuesday, May 24, Red Lion Hotel Bellevue, Evergreen Point Room, 11211 Main St.
• Everett: Wednesday, May 25, Everett Community College, Jackson Conference Center, 2000 Tower St.
The events start at 6 p.m. with an open house and presentations. Public comment will be heard from 7 to 9 p.m. More public hearings will follow across the state.