Spokane County redistribution of maps released due to mixed reactions

Spokane County’s Redistricting Committee has released four cards for future commissioner elections.

The group tasked with dividing Spokane County into five new counties by the County Commissioner has released four maps.

The cards have received mixed reviews.

Spokane County has had three predominantly Republican-controlled county commissioner districts for years.

That will change in 2022 due to a new law requiring Spokane County to draw five new districts and commissioners in their district to win in both the primary and general election to win the seat. In the past, the general election was a district-wide vote – which meant some commissioners lost in their districts – but won district-wide.

Last week the group got together to finalize new maps for the community to criticize in the release of the 2020 census figures.

Ann Murphy, chairwoman of the Spokane League of Women electorate, noticed one of the cards, Initial Proposition a, gave Republicans a clear partisan advantage and created a scenario where central Spokane was an island and the rest of the city up four types cut open and lumped together with more rural voters.

“The people in Spokane City are part of the county,” she said. “I think any map that waters the city down is problematic.”

She said the other cards featured would better break up the city of Spokane into less partisan districts without losing the rural population’s votes.

Many are behind a proposal that is not an official map – a map developed by several community groups including the Spokane Community Against Racism, the Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition, and the League of Women Voters.

This map divides the city of Spokane into two more vertical districts and combines part of the south hill into a West Plains district. Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake are split in the middle, with half of each parish belonging to a north and a south district.

The two official cards that appear closest to what the community suggests are cards two and four.

Map two chunks of Cheney and Part of the West plan into one city of Spokane District, and split the city of Spokane similarly to two of the parish map.

Map four keeps the West Plains in one district, divides the city of Spokane into north and south districts, and divides the city of Spokane Valley in half, leaving Liberty Lake intact and in the southeast district.

Jac Archer, a program coordinator for SCAR, said the ideal map would hold like-minded communities together and avoid extremely partisan districts that use both parties disproportionately.

“The best scenario is that we have fair and competitive districts across the county,” they said. “These counties are taking advantage of existing barriers, they are not building or pulling communities together, we are staying. Think about the natural boundaries, the Spokane River, Division Street, I-90, the north-south corridor.”

Diana Wilhite, a member of the Republicans of Spokane County – a Republican club, and the former mayor of Spokane Valley, said there are drawbacks to every card. She said the card that best reflects the Spokane County’s voting average is card four. She believes it could produce three Republican commissioners and two Democrats or two from each party and a swing district.

“I think it’s the most competitive and I think it’s relatively fair,” said Wilhite.

Wilhite said she was concerned about the schedule for creating the cards, state law requires them to be submitted by October 23, and the public has until September 24 to comment.

Jeff Beaulac, chairman of the Spokane County Democratic Redistribution Committee, said he hoped the Spokane County redistribution process would not be partisan and that committee members would not do whatever they could to attract the incumbents they will succeed in.

“If we allow too much partisanship or focus too much on protecting incumbents, we will end up with districts that don’t represent the community as well as they can,” he said.

The Spokane County’s Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment on the cards.

A public comment on the draft reallocation plan must be submitted by September 24th. The cards are available on the Redistribution Committee website, redistrictspokaneco.com.

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