Redistricting process to establish key boundaries for the next 10 years

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July 29, 2021

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The 12th District and Washington’s 48 other legislative districts have had specific boundaries since 2012. The borders for these districts, as well as Washington’s congressional districts, will change in 2022 after the state’s redistricting process is completed near the end of this year.

How Washington’s redistricting process works

Every 10 years, an independent and bipartisan Washington State Redistricting Commission is established to redraw legislative and congressional district maps in our state for the next decade. The redistricting process occurs after the completion of the national census, which is taken every 10 years, most recently in 2020. Congressional district lines have been drawn by the Redistricting Commission since 1983 and legislative district boundaries since 1991. This commission comprises five members. Four are appointed by the leaders of each of the four major caucuses. The four appointed commissioners then appoint a fifth, nonvoting, chairperson. Enactment of new redistricting maps for Washington requires bipartisan approval. If at least three of the four Redistricting Commission members cannot agree on a map that is fair to all, responsibility for drawing the lines is turned over to the Washington Supreme Court. Our state’s bipartisan redistricting system requires cooperation. It isn’t surprising that Washington’s redistricting process is admired by other states seeking to move away from an approach in which one party controls the final result.

WA congressional district map

The congressional district boundaries for our federal representatives will be adjusted during the Redistricting Commission process. Our current 12th Legislative District boundaries include portions of the 8th Congressional District (Rep. Kim Schrier) and 4th Congressional District (Rep. Dan Newhouse).

Voters created state’s Redistricting Commission

For many years, the Legislature was in charge of redistricting, but many had grown angry and frustrated with how partisan and time-consuming this approach had become. By the 1980s, Washingtonians sought change. In 1983, Washington voters passed Senate Joint Resolution 103, an amendment to our state constitution that created our state’s independent Redistricting Commission. Over the past decade, several other states have revamped their redistricting process to reduce the chance of partisan politics and “gerrymandering,” a term describing districts with bizarrely drawn boundaries. I’m encouraged to know other states have followed our state’s lead in creating independent commissions to draw up legislative and congressional district maps, with just minimal political manipulation involved.  

2021 Redistricting Commission members named

Members of the Redistricting Commission must meet certain criteria to be eligible to serve. Each appointee must be a registered voter, cannot have been a registered lobbyist within one year prior to appointment, and cannot have been an elected official or elected local or state party officer within two years of appointment. Additionally, once appointed, commissioners may not campaign for office, participate or contribute to a political campaign, or campaign or hold a seat in the Legislature or Congress for two years after the new plan is enacted. Earlier this year, the four legislative caucuses announced their appointees to serve on the Redistricting Commission. Joe Fain was named by the Senate Republican Caucus, Brady Pinero Walkinshaw by the Senate Democratic Caucus, April Sims by the House Democratic Caucus, and Paul Graves by the House Republican Caucus. The four members chose Sarah Augustine to be their nonvoting chair.

WA legislative district map

The Redistricting Commission will be rebalancing the state legislative districts to ensure each district represents approximately the same population. Our current 12th District is one of the largest districts in our state (based on geography) and includes Chelan and Douglas counties and portions of Grant and Okanogan counties.

Next steps for the Redistricting Commission

The Redistricting Commission has hired its staff and scheduled public hearings around the state. It still has to draft plans and present those plans to the public and then negotiate and submit a final plan to the Legislature by the November 15 deadline. Lawmakers will consider the plan during their 2022 session. The Redistricting Commission website is here. If you want to learn about the 2011 Redistricting Commission and the plan that was implemented in 2012 for our current legislative and congressional district boundaries, please click here. The U.S. Census Bureau earlier this year released updated population numbers for all 50 states, as well as the number of congressional seats to which each state is entitled. The Census Bureau recently released population figures for existing congressional and legislative districts. With those district population figures having been announced for Washington, the Redistricting Commission has started to work on deciding how to redraw Washington’s district borders. (Drafts of the legislative and congressional maps are expected in late September.) It can be a challenging task because each of the 49 legislative districts is to have the same population as the other districts. The same rule applies for each of our state’s 10 congressional districts. (Washington will not receive an additional congressional district, but other states will gain or lose congressional districts as a result of the national census).

The Redistricting Commission has been holding online public outreach meetings this summer. The commission's next virtual public outreach meeting for the 8th Congressional District, which includes part of our 12th Legislative District, is scheduled for this Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Go here if you wish to register to make public comments at this meeting. And go here to watch Saturday's outreach meeting or to learn more information about it.

Redistricting’s impact on eastern Washington

It is almost certain that the new 12th District's boundaries will be different than our district’s existing boundaries. Throughout the history of our state and certainly throughout the Redistricting Commission’s history, that has been the case for all of the legislative and congressional districts. The question is, how different will the new boundaries be? It is very possible that portions of the existing legislative districts in eastern Washington will include portions of western Washington because of greater population growth on the west side of the Cascades. (The last time an eastern Washington district shifted into western Washington was 1991 when the 5th Legislative District, which had been in the Spokane area, was relocated to a part of King County that included Issaquah.) If redistricting moves an eastern Washington legislative district to western Washington, it will cause the remaining districts on our side of the state to become larger geographically.

Legislative district population chart

This table shows population growth from 2010 to 2020 for state legislative districts. An “ideal district” count divides the total state population by 49 districts to arrive at an equal “ideal” population. In 2010, the ideal district was a population of 137,235. In 2020, the ideal legislative district will contain approximately 156,249 people. Many eastern Washington districts are under the ideal population count and, therefore, will likely expand geographically to pick up population.

History of 12th District borders

In the early 1930s, the 12th District was moved from southeastern Washington to its present location in North Central Washington. All of Chelan County has been within the 12th District since then. In 1965, the 12th District included all of Chelan and Douglas counties. By 1972, the western half of Okanogan County, including Winthrop and Brewster, was added to the 12th District, as was the northern part of Grant County. The northern portion of Kittitas County was part of the 12th for 30 years until the present boundaries were redrawn in 2012 – a shift that also picked up more of the southeastern portion of Okanogan County and part of Grant County. Regardless of any shifting boundaries for the next 10 years, my hope is that Chelan and Douglas counties remain together given the unique nature and long history of shared cooperation between those two jurisdictions.

Listen to my recent radio interviews

During the interim period between legislative sessions, I occasionally participate in live interviews with our local radio stations to keep listeners up to date on what is happening. Click the links to hear my interviews with KOHO and KOZI this week.

Thank you for the opportunity and privilege to serve as your 12th District state senator.



Brad Hawkins

State Senator Brad Hawkins
12th Legislative District


107 Newhouse Building - P.O. Box 40412 | Olympia, WA 98504-0412
(360) 786-7622 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000