County redistricting process going to take at least one more week

Clark County Councilor Dick Rylander is shown here at his swearing-in ceremony Tuesday. On Wednesday, he led a movement for the council to consider a previously discarded candidate boundary map for approval. Photo by Mike Schultz
Clark County Councilor Dick Rylander is shown here at his swearing-in ceremony Tuesday. On Wednesday, he led a movement for the council to consider a previously discarded candidate boundary map for approval. Photo by Mike Schultz

With a full County Council of five members, councilors are no longer deadlocked and will consider map C2 on May 11

It didn’t take Councilor Dick Rylander long to make an impact on the Clark County Council. Rylander, sworn in to his District 5 seat just one day earlier, led a movement Wednesday for the council to reject its latest proposed redistricting map and focus on a separate map, a version of which had been previously considered. The process will move forward to a hearing Wed, May 11 at which the members of the council will consider district boundary map C2.

At their previous council meeting on April 27, which took place prior to Rylander’s appointment to fill the District 5 seat by Gov. Jay Inslee, the four other councilors deadlocked 2-2 on the map (B2) moved forward for consideration at that meeting. Council Chair Karen Dill Bowerman and Councilor Gary Medvigy voted to approve the B2 map and Councilors Temple Lentz and Julie Olson voted to reject. At that meeting, the four councilors then voted to advance the map referred to as the April 19, 2022 map for consideration at Wednesday’s meeting (May 4).

Early in the meeting, Councilor Olson moved for the passage of the April 19, 2022 map and Councilor Lentz seconded the motion. Rylander quickly shared with his fellow councilors that he would not be supporting the effort to approve that map.

“I have watched from afar, as a member of the public, the process since it started late last summer into fall,’’ said Rylander, who indicated he had researched the process with County GIS Analyst Paul Newman in preparation for Wednesday’s meeting. “I have looked at each of the maps and I actually spent some time earlier this week online with Mr. Newman, having him walk through the various map iterations that have been brought forward and discovered that there was an earlier map that actually hadn’t progressed very far. He referred to that as map C. 

“I did subsequently ask him if he could go back and revisit that map C and bring it current with all of the precinct and legislative district changes that occurred earlier this year,’’ Rylander said. “He did (and) he actually has that available today, should this resolution fail, if we want another option. I cannot support this map 4-19. I think there are alternative maps that do as good, or a better job. One of those I believe that we can see today is map C2. So, I will not be supporting map 4-19.’’

With a full County Council of five members, councilors are no longer deadlocked and will consider map C2 on May 11.
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Councilor Olson continued with her desire to approve the map referred to as the April 19, 2022 map.

“This is the closest map we’ve seen to the election,’’ Olson said, referring to the map approved by voters in November of last year as an amendment to the county charter. That amendment created a fifth district on the council. “I sincerely hope we can get this map passed here today so we can move on and get this behind us.’’ 

The redistricting process was initially in the hands of a five-member Clark County Redistricting Committee. The committee had a Dec. 31, 2021 deadline to complete its work. Since the process was forwarded to the County Council, councilors have attempted, unsuccessfully, to agree on a map several times. 

Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey had previously given the councilors a deadline of April 28 to select a new candidate boundary map in order for the Clark County Elections Office to have it in place for the May 16-20 candidate filing period. Kimsey was asked by the councilors how it would impact the work of elections officials if a map wasn’t approved Wednesday.

“We are currently accepting declarations of candidacy through the mail,’’ Kimsey said. “Those will not be put into effect until the beginning of in-person candidate filing Monday, May 16. Technically, Monday, May 16 is locked in as to when we have to have these districts in place.

“If the council does desire to change the council district boundaries as required by state law, it would be extraordinarily helpful to have those new boundary lines by Wednesday, May 11, which would enable the elections office to implement those changes into the elections boundary system while we would prefer to have more advance notice than two days the earlier we can get them the better for the elections office. If there are going to be changes made prior to candidate filing, Wednesday, May 11 would be the deadline.’’

Kimsey said if any declarations of candidacy were received prior to the installation of the new candidate district map, those would not be accepted by the elections office so the filing fee would not be processed with those filings.

Councilor Lentz then made one last attempt for the councilors to approve the April 19, 2022 map.

“It is definitely inappropriate for us to go backwards and certainly to have councilors once again to put their own personal preferences in front of the good of the community,’’ Lentz said. “Redistricting is not about candidates. It’s about voters. We have a map here that has removed policy making influence and taken it directly, as this council voted them to do, to the staff and asked them to draw an impartial map. We have that in front of us and we should vote to move it forward.’’ 

Councilor Medvigy then responded with an explanation of why the process has been so difficult.

“It was defined poorly and it was doomed to fail,’’ Medvigy summarized near the end of his comments. “The map that was passed by the voters can not stand. It doesn’t comply with state law. The numbers alone are so divergent. It was a bad start that we were handed and yes we need some reform. I hope we can get to it soon. I appreciate the new input and new perspective by Mr. Rylander.”

Lentz then responded to Medvigy.

“If this council truly values transparency and process, this is the map this council will advance, otherwise we will once again see that personal and political preference and bias will get in the way of serving the public,’’ Lentz said.

After the April 19, 2022 map was rejected 3-2, with Lentz and Olson voting to approve and Chair Bowerman and Councilors Medvigy and Rylander voting to reject, Rylander then made a motion to move map C2 forward to a meeting on May 11.

“The changes from (map) C that Mr. Newman did, it’s my understanding the only changes that occurred were to make sure that the precincts and legislative district changes proposed and accepted at the county level earlier this year were overlaid,’’ said Rylander, referring to the update of map C, which is now the C2 map. “He did have to make some slight line movements. Outside of that there was no other input, at least from me, on any additional changes. So this is a fresh map.’’

Chair Bowerman pointed out that earlier in the process she had made a motion to approve the C map, but that motion failed.

Olson was immediately critical of the C2 map.

“This map looks like a mess frankly,’’ said Olson, who was asked for additional comment by Chair Bowerman. “It’s a mess. It certainly does accomplish the goal of keeping Chair Bowerman in District 3. 

“It’s discombobulated; it’s clearly a mess,’’ Olson added. “There is a peninsula in the middle of it. When you’re talking about compactness, compared to the 4-19 map, it clearly doesn’t compare just on its face.’’

Councilors Medvigy and Rylander pointed out during different times in the meeting that the C2 map did achieve the requirement of Clark County’s population to be spread out over the five districts with a variance of less than 1 percent (as shown in the details of the map graphic).

Lentz also made a veiled reference to the fact that map C2 keeps Chair Bowerman in her current district. Previous maps had moved Bowerman into District 4, which is represented by Councilor Medvigy. Councilors are allowed to finish their terms representing the district they were elected to serve but then would have to file for reelection in their new district.

“This map does not appear to have a lot of merit, but it does serve an interest that we heard throughout the process,’’ Lentz said. “So, I will not be surprised if this is the one that gets moved forward.’’

Medvigy disagreed with Olson’s assessment of the C2 map.

“Looks quite a bit like all the other maps,’’ Medvigy said. “It’s quite a relative term for someone to say this one is a mess. It’s not. I don’t see it as a mess. It looks consistent with some of the other maps we’ve seen.’’

“I believe it fits all of the criteria,’’ Rylander said. “I believe it is appropriate given the circumstance.’’

Councilors Bowerman, Medvigy and Rylander then voted to move the C2 map forward for consideration at a meeting to be scheduled for Wed., May 11. Lentz and Olson voted against moving the C2 map forward.

There will be an opportunity for public comment at the May 11 meeting as well as more discussion by the councilors.

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