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EWU Redistricting Research

Published: October 25, 2011

CHENEY, Wash. - While redistricting can be a highly politicized process in many states, the redrawing of legislative lines in the state of Washington seems to be clear of explicitly one-sided partisan influences that can manipulate the process. That is the finding of a new Monograph released by Eastern Washington University's Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis.

Every 10 years, after the census, each state is required to redraw the district lines for their state legislative and congressional representatives. The Washington State Redistricting Commission is charged with creating the new boundaries in 2011. The bipartisan commission is appointed by the legislature and made up of four voting members and a nonvoting chair to make sure neither political party has an advantage.

The author of the redistricting Monograph studied the Redistricting Commission's work going back to 1990, and concludes the commission has done a good job of following the fairness guidelines.

"The bipartisan process, while not perfect, does ensure that neither political party in Washington state has the ability to completely game the system for their own advantage, as it occurs in other states," said Kevin Pirch, an associate professor in EWU's Department of Government, who conducted the research. "In addition, previous redistricting commissions have done a good job of following their three main directives of creating compact political districts, maintaining a degree of political competitiveness and keeping communities whole."

Pirch notes the federal courts have held that congressional districts must have as close to equal population as possible, and that thought seems to carry over to the legislative districts as well. Additionally, the state requires the Redistricting Commission to draw compact boundaries, which closely follow established lines and are as politically competitive as possible.

While noting there are many ways in which the 2011 redistricting process may unfold, Pirch does foresee one congressional district crossing the Cascades to represent a sizeable portion of both eastern and western Washington.

The Institute utilizes the expertise of EWU faculty to sponsor research in social, economic and public policy questions to the Inland Northwest. It also conducts contract research for various organizations and governmental agencies around the region. This is the 16th Monograph released by the Institute.

For more information, please contact Patrick Jones, the executive director of the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis at 509.828.1246 or dpjones@ewu.edu.

 

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