County Council again fails to agree on a final district boundary map

(L to R) Council Chair Karen Dill Bowerman, Councilor Temple Lentz, Councilor Gary Medvigy and Councilor Julie Olson
(L to R) Council Chair Karen Dill Bowerman, Councilor Temple Lentz, Councilor Gary Medvigy and Councilor Julie Olson

Instead, councilors elect to forward Alternative 1 map for approval on May 4

Members of the Clark County Council once again failed to agree on a final district boundary map Wednesday morning, opting instead to move forward to a public hearing on a map the council could have approved previously.

The councilors were deadlocked 2-2 on approval of the Alternative B2 map that was passed forward at their last meeting. Chair Karen Dill Bowerman and Councilor Gary Medvigy voted in favor of approving the B2 map, but Councilors Temple Lentz and Julie Olson voted against approval. The District 5 council seat remains vacant pending the appointment of a replacement by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The Alternative 1 map was developed by staff with instructions from the council to keep councilors in their current districts. That map received considerable negative public testimony at the April 13 meeting and the councilors were deadlocked 2-2 on approval of that map. Councilors Medvigy and Olson voted to approve Alternative 1 and Chair Bowerman and Councilor Lentz voted against it.

Council then approved a motion to recuse themselves from the map creation and to have staff create another map that was independent of any policy direction and follows statutory rules. That map, referred to as the April 19, 2022, map will be the map considered for approval by the council at a hearing scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wed., May 4.

Members of the Clark County Council once again failed to agree on a final district boundary map Wednesday morning, opting instead to move forward to a public hearing on a map the council could have approved two weeks ago.
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Ironically, the council also declined to approve the Alternative B2 map in December, even though three members of the council agreed to move it forward for approval at a meeting on April 19. Councilors Lentz, Bowerman and Medvigy voted to move the B2 map forward to Wednesday’s meeting. Councilor Olson was not available for the April 19 meeting.

The councilors had been given an April 28 deadline by Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey to approve a new district map in order for the process to be completed in time for the candidate filing period of May 16-20. 

“We need to do this, this is ridiculous, this is embarrassing,’’ Medvigy said. “The whole process for redistricting throughout the nation is convoluted and a challenge. I apologize to all the candidates out there and to the auditor himself. Let’s get it done.’’

In campaigning for approval of the B2 map, Medvigy criticized the entire redistricting process.

“This was a trainwreck. It was a messy process. It was not our doing,’’ Medvigy said of the council. “The charter needs to be amended to have a different redistricting composition of the party or a different voting scheme so a map can possibly come out of it. Ultimately, if there is no map it shouldn’t come to the council. It should go to the court.’’

Olson later agreed with Medvigy about the redistricting process.

“We as a council have the authority and the opportunity to put forward a charter amendment that could deal with this and not have to wait for the Charter Review Commission,’’ Olson said. “That is something I would be interested in.

“This has been an extraordinarily frustrating process for me knowing this is not how this is supposed to work,’’ Olson said. “This is not how it’s supposed to work and we’re seeing why it’s not supposed to work this way. 

“I understand and appreciate the time sensitivity,’’ Olson said. “That’s why the statute says we’re supposed to have this done by Dec. 31, which we clearly have not done and the redistricting committee didn’t do. Our actions since this came to us have not supported a timely redistricting map. i also want to get it done, but i want to get it right.’’

The redistricting process was initially in the hands of a five-member Clark County Redistricting Committee. The committee was challenged by the fact that Clark County voters approved an amendment to the Clark County Charter that created a new fifth district for elected county officers. The committee had a Dec. 31, 2021 deadline to complete its work.

The process was also hindered by a lawsuit filed against the county by former redistricting committee member Janet Landesberg, whose complaint alleged violations of RCW 42.30, the Clark County Charter 6.6, and violation of Washington’s Open Public Meetings Act. Landesberg did not prevail in her lawsuit.

The redistricting committee was unable to agree on a single map for the new five districts by its deadline. The committee had three maps – one supported by two Democrats, one supported by two Republicans, and another created by the redistricting master in an effort to suggest compromise. According to the county charter a two-thirds majority was required for approval.

The County Council has met several times to consider how to move the process along. The councilors were expecting one map from the committee and instead were provided three. In January, the councilors reached an impasse and voted to send the redistricting back to the committee.

Alternative B2 was one of the three maps previously forwarded to the council by the redistricting committee. The reason for the councilors’ previous objection to the B2 map centered around the fact that the proposed map moved existing councilors from their current districts. Councilor Olson would have moved from District 2 to District 5. Chair Bowerman would have moved from District 3 into District 4, which is currently represented by Councilor Medvigy. The county charter allows the councilors to complete their current terms in the district they were elected to represent.

During the April 19 meeting, Councilor Medvigy suggested that the councilors reconsider map B2 instead of considering the Alternative 1 map created by county staff. Medvigy and Chair Bowerman voted in favor of advancing map B2 with Councilor Lentz voting against. After discussion among the three councilors, Lentz reconsidered her vote, creating a majority to move map B2 forward to Wednesday’s meeting.

Kimsey previously told Clark County Today this week, “if a map is approved by the 28th we can put that into effect by the beginning of in person candidate filing on May 16. We can receive candidate filings through the mail beginning this Monday, May 2nd, however they aren’t actually formally filed until May16.  

“If we receive candidate filings in the mail for a position for which they are not qualified to hold (e.g. council district boundary adjustment resulted in the person residing in a council district that is different from the one they filed for) their filing will not be accepted,” Kimsey said.

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