Lengthy redistricting process finally comes to an end
The county redistricting process is finally over. On Wednesday, members of the County Council approved Alternative map C2 by a vote of 3-1. County Chair Karen Dill Bowerman and Councilors Gary Medvigy and Dick Rylander voted in favor of the C2 map and Councilor Temple Lentz voted in opposition. Councilor Julie Olson was not present at the meeting.
“I wish this wasn’t before us,’’ Medvigy said prior to the vote of the council. “The strongest reason to vote on this map today is to end this process, not only for the auditor’s benefit, but we’re standing on the edge of the cliff timewise, as far as adjusting all the maps and accepting those candidates who are filing for office. We need to do this today.’’
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey told the councilors last week that his office would be able to process the new district boundary map in time for the candidate filing period of May 16-20. He stated that any declarations of candidacy that were received prior to the adoption of the C2 map would not be processed.
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 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.
At recent meetings, the council attempted to approve other maps and could not reach a consensus. The map approved Wednesday originated with the redistricting committee. It was originally referred to as map C.
The map was then relabeled C2 after county staff made what was described as a “small adjustment,’’ by Paul Newman, county GIS analyst. Newman indicated that the adjustment was made in the area of Ward Rd., NE Fourth Plain Blvd. and Padden Parkway. It moved about 350 residents into District 4 in order to align the map with election precinct boundaries and a change due to the state’s update of the legislative district.
The council received public testimony from a handful of citizens who attended the meeting in person as well as another handful of citizens participating in the virtual format. The councilors had also received a number of written comments prior to the meeting. Each of the citizens that testified Wednesday, both in person and in the virtual format, voiced opposition to the C2 map.
Councilor Lentz added, “for the record, the comments we received echoed in tone and in nature the comments we received online and in person.’’
Councilor Medvigy moved for the resolution to adopt the C2 map be approved and Councilor Rylander seconded the motion.
During council discussion, Lentz asked the councilors to explain why they supported the C2 map.
“I have not yet heard any reasoning why C2 is the appropriate map to adopt here,’’ Lentz said. “We have heard it is preferred, but not why? I would love to have members of the council share that with us today.’’
Councilor Rylander responded to the request, which was also made by citizens who testified Wednesday.
“First, it was created by the redistricting committee,’’ Rylander said. “This originated with that committee. It was not created by this council. C2 has not been touched by this council. It has not been tainted by this council. It was created by the redistricting committee.
“Like all of the maps that have been brought forward, they all meet the population criteria,’’ Rylander added. “They also meet density requirements, so there is no issue there. One can make an argument that any of the maps are appropriate.’’
At last week’s meeting (May 4), a resolution to approve a map referred to as the 04-19-22 map was not approved by the council. Chair Bowerman and Councilors Medvigy and Rylander voted against the approval of that map and Councilors Lentz and Olson were in favor.
Many of the citizens who spoke Wednesday asked the council to reconsider approval of the 04-19-22 map.
“That map can’t be approved because the population variations are so significant it had to be redrawn,’’ Rylander said. “Looking at all of these (maps), they’re all acceptable choices in my personal opinion. I think C2 is as valid a choice as any of the other maps.’’
Citizens testified that the councilors were serving their own interests, rather than that of the voters, by approving map C2.
“None of the support for C2 has anything to do with, in my mind, with politics or advantage or disadvantage,’’ Rylander said. “I’m stating that for the public record.’’
Medvigy also stated there was no political motive.
“There’s just a generalized misunderstanding about what an allegation is compared to what a fact is,’’ Medvigy said. “I at least tried to get this process before the court, which is where I think it should have been, an independent, non-partisan body. Hopefully in the future we can amend our charter. It shouldn’t be in front of us.
“We have followed our charter, nevertheless, the advice of counsel, we have followed, not only in spirit but in letter, the guideline and law in place by the state,’’ Medvigy said. “We have followed the will of the people. We are going to have five districts. They’re going to be non-partisan. They are going to comply with state law. The allegation is simply false that it somehow benefits a person or party. It does not.
“There’s been no allegation that any of these maps have created any advantage to any individual or any party,’’ Medvigy said. “These five districts remain as competitive as they were envisioned to be. We complied with the law, compiled with the charter, complied with the vote. This is a fair and appropriate map.’’
Prior to the vote, Lentz made one final push against the approval of the C2 map.
“As far as the notion that the map was created by the redistricting committee so it was unsullied, yet it was not supported by the redistricting committee,’’ Lentz pointed out. “As far as it not being tainted by this council, the redistricting committee was tainted by this council. While I believe the redistricting committee made a good faith effort to do good work, the selection of the members of that committee, foundationally, was a problem.
“While the C2 map technically meets criteria presented by the state, other maps we have reviewed do so better,’’ Lentz added. “As to the strongest reason to accept the C2 map today is being that we need to make a decision and move on, the opportunity to accept maps that do the job well and do not have the taint of political influence have been before this council and, in fact, could be an option today if this council chose not to accept the C2 map. Because we have heard at public hearing the 4-19 map and the B2 map, a motion could be made to renew and move forward with one of those.
“I do agree the political parties, overall, have neither been benefited or harmed by any of the maps presented, but we have heard directly from members of the council that they would like certain maps to be drawn based on where councilors live,’’ said Lentz. “Redistricting, as I have said before, should be about the voters and not those who run for office. It is unfortunate that this is what we keep coming back to.’’
Lentz (District 1) and Olson (District 2) have each announced they will not seek reelection to the council. Their terms run through the end of the year. The term for the District 5 seat, currently held by Rylander, is also expiring at the end of the year. Rylander has not announced if he will seek the seat in the upcoming election. The terms of Councilors Bowerman and Medvigy will continue for two more years.