Thanks to a vigorous organizing effort by a coalition of groups advocating for a majority-minority district in Washington State, Tuesday night's final public forum on redistricting drew a full house. The organizations who helped pack the New Holly Gathering Hall, a coalition called United for Fair Representation, included: One America, the Win-Win Network, the Latino Community Fund, Asian Pacific Americans for Civic Empowerment, and a few local unions.

(Seattle City Council candidates Maurice Classen, Michael Taylor-Judd, and Bobby Forch were all in attendance, though none of them personally testified at the forum. Forch is a known supporter of the push for a majority-minority district in Washington.)

Members and supporters of the coalition urged commissioners to adopt the "Unity Map" (designed by United for Fair Representation), which would allocate the 10th Congressional district to south King County, where nonwhites are the majority.

"I see a lot of color down here [in the audience], and I'd like to see more color up there [pointing to the commissioners and public officials]," quipped one advocate, drawing cheers.

Those who testified for a majority-minority district credited the increase in immigrant and minority residents for the population surge that put Washington over the top for a new tenth congressional district. For some supporters, the issue was holding representatives accountable to these communities, rather than about electing a leader of color per se.

(Many who were pushing for the changes also said they wanted to keep the 11th and 37th state legislative districts intact. Both districts are represented by minorities---Reps. Eric Pettigrew and Sharon Tomiko Santos in the the 37th and Sen. Margarita Prentice and Rep. Bob Hasegawa in the 11th.)

On the flip side, a few speakers voiced their discomfort with what they called "racial gerrymandering"  and called for a solution to the needs of communities of color without creating a majority-minority district.

We couldn't reach individual  redistricting commissioners to comment on the issue of majority-minority districts. Executive Director Bonnie Bunning, a non-voting staff member, did say that the Commission is committed to "voting equality."

Bunning said the Unity Map  "may or may not work" depending on whether it met the lengthy "set of criteria" the commissioners are working with, including respecting municipal lines and keeping intact "communities of interest." Bottom line, we aren't hearing a peep out of the commission.

Next step: Each of the four commissioners will draw up their own maps and then reconcile the differences between each to produce a rough draft map, to be released September 13th, followed by a one-month public review period.

(Disclosure: Once again, I am a OneAmerica intern, and attended the meeting in that role.)
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