County may see split in districts

One of four commissioners would split the county between a pair of congressional districts.

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WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla County may wind up with a split personality under one of four proposed redistricting plans unveiled Tuesday.

At a meeting in Olympia, members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission laid out their draft plans to redraw the state's political maps. Among their aims are to create a new 10th Congressional District as well as equalize populations in the state's 49 legislative districts.

The four commissioners are equally divided between the state's two major parties. Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and Tom Huff are the Republican appointees and the Democratic appointees are Dean Foster and Tim Ceis.

Walla Walla County, now in the 5th Congressional District represented by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, would not be divided under plans proposed by Foster, Ceis and Huff. But under Gorton's proposal, the county would be divided along school district boundary lines, with the eastern half in the 5th Congressional District and the western half in the 4th Congressional District, represented by U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings.

The split would place Touchet and Burbank in the 4th Congressional District and Walla Walla, College Place, Waitsburg, Dixie and Prescott in the 5th Congressional District.

Huff's plan would keep Walla Walla County in the 5th Congressional District, but Foster's and Ceis' plans would place the county in the 4th Congressional District. And while Gorton, Foster and Huff plan would leave the 5th Congressional District similar to its current configuration, Ceis' plan would restructure the 4th Congressional District to cover the southern half of Eastern Washington while configuring the 5th Congressional District to cover the northern portion.

Regarding legislative districts, the proposed plans by all four commissioners would leave Walla Walla County in the 16th Legislative District. But while the Republican appointees propose no radical changes, the Democratic proposals would restructure the district entirely.

Ceis' draft plan would create a new 16th Legislative District composed of Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, Asotin and Whitman counties and eliminate the portions the Benton and Franklin County now in the district. Foster's proposed plan is similar, but would include Adams County in the district as well.

Under Gorton's proposed plan, the 16th Legislative District would lose the portion of Franklin County now included in its boundaries, but the district would otherwise remain unchanged. Huff's proposal would leave the district largely untouched.

Lura Powell, commission chairwoman, said the unveiling of the plans Tuesday marked the beginning of the public comment period to collection people's reactions to the proposals. The commission will take comments on the draft plans through Oct. 11 and will wrap up the process that day with a public meeting in Olympia.

The commission has set a goal of early November for release of the final congressional and legislative maps.

The final redistricting plan must be approved by three of the four voting commission members. That plan will become final unless it is amended by the Legislature within 30 days after the beginning of the next regular or special legislative session.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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