The political landscape could literally be changing for Walla Walla as the Washington State Redistricting Commission prepares to draw new lines for the state's congressional and legislative districts.
The five-member commission held a hearing in Walla Walla this week -- as it has been doing throughout the state -- in an effort to determine how folks feel they can be best represented by state and federal lawmakers. The lines are redrawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census.
Unfortunately, few people attended the local hearing.
But this won't be the last word on redistricting. The process is a long way from completion, which means people from throughout Walla Walla and Columbia counties will have more opportunities to voice their feelings.
It will be important for citizens to comment as Walla Walla County could find itself in a legislative district that looks much different than the current one, which stretches from Prosser to Dayton covering parts of Benton and Franklin counties and all of Walla Walla and Columbia counties.
It is also possible all or part of Walla Walla County could be moved from the 5th Congressional District, now represented by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, to the 4th Congressional District, now represented by Doc Hastings.
When the commission recently held a hearing in Pasco it heard very clearly that many people in the urban Tri-Cities area are not happy to be linked politically with the rural areas to the east.
A major reason for that is the representatives and senator from the 16th Legislative District are from Walla Walla and Columbia counties.
Is it in the best interests of Walla Walla and Columbia counties to be tied politically? Or does it make more sense to be linked with Garfield, Asotin or Whitman counties, which are more rural?
The commission members -- two Republians, two Democrats and a non-voting chairwoman -- have a lot to consider as they redraw the lines. The first priority is for each of the state and federal districts to have equal populations. The 16th Legislative District has seen a large increase in population, mostly because of the rapid growth in Pasco. That means changes will be made.
At the federal level, the state's population has grown to the point that Washington will be gaining a congressional district. This new 10th Congressional District will likely be carved from the population-dense Puget Sound area, but that will force changes to the current nine districts. Since Walla Walla abuts the 4th Congressional District, commissioners will give serious consideration to moving all or part of the county to the 4th.
When the commissioners finish their statewide tour they will get together and offer various options for public comment.
When those maps are made public sometime this fall (redistricting.wa.gov/maps.asp), take the time to look them over and then comment.
The commission will make a decision by the end of the year and the political ramifications will be felt in Southeastern Washington for the next decade.