Spokane County Redistricting Maps Released To Mixed Reactions

Aug 31, 2021

This is one of the four draft maps released last week by the Spokane County Redistricting Commission. You can view all of the maps at redistrictspokaneco.com.
Credit Courtesy of Spokane County Redistricting Commission

The group tasked with carving Spokane County into five new county commissioner districts has released four maps.

The maps have garnered mixed reviews.

Spokane County has had three, predominately Republican controlled county commissioner districts for years.

That will change in 2022 due to a new law that requires Spokane County to draw five new districts, and will require commissioners to win in their district in both the primary, and the general election to win the seat. In the past, the general election was a county wide vote – which meant some commissioners lost in their districts – but won county wide.

Last week the group convened to finalize new maps for the community to critique as the 2020 Census numbers were released.

Ann Murphy, chair of the League of Women voters of Spokane, noted one of the maps, the first proposal a, gave a clear partisan advantage to Republicans, and created a scenario where central Spokane was an island, and the rest of the city is cut up four ways and lumped in with more rural voters.

“People in the city of Spokane, they’re part of the county," she said. "Any map that dilutes the city, I think is problematic.”

She said the other maps presented do a better job splitting up the city of Spokane into less partisan districts, without losing the voices of rural people.

Many are behind a proposal that isn’t among the official maps– a map developed by several community groups including Spokane Community Against Racism, the Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition and the League of Women Voters.

That map separates the city of Spokane into two more vertical districts, and lumps part of the south hill into a West Plains District. Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake are split down the middle, with half of each community belonging to a North, and South district.

The two official maps that appear closest to the community proposals is maps two and four.

Map two lumps Cheney and some of the West plan into a city of Spokane District, and divides the city of Spokane similarly two the community map.

Map four keeps the West Plains in one district, splits the city of Spokane into North and South districts, and splits the city of Spokane Valley in half, and leaves Liberty Lake intact and in the Southeast District.

Jac Archer, a program coordinator for SCAR, said the ideal map would keep like-communities together, and avoid extremely partisan districts that disproportionately advantage either political party.  

“The best-case scenario is that we have equitable and competitive districts across the county," they said. "Those districts are making use of existing barriers, they’re not putting together, or pulling apart communities, instead we’re keeping in mind natural boundaries, the Spokane River, division street, I-90, the North South Corridor.”

Diana Wilhite, a member of the Republicans of Spokane County – a Republican club, and the former mayor of Spokane Valley, said every map had drawbacks. She said the map that may produce the truest reflection of Spokane county’s voting average, is map four. She anticipates it could produce three Republican commissioners and two Democrats, or two of each party, and a swing district.

“I think it’s the most competitive, and I think it’s relatively fair,” Wilhite said.

Wilhite said she is concerned by the timeline to produce the maps, state law requires they be submitted by October 23 and the public has until September 24 to comment on them.

Jeff Beaulac, the chair of the Spokane County Democrats redistricting committee, said he’s hopeful the Spokane County redistricting process steers clear of partisanship and committee members don’t go out of their way to draw districts incumbents will be successful in.

“If we allow partisanship to come into play to much, or try to focus on trying to protect incumbents too much, we will end up with districts that don’t represent the community as well as they could,” he said.

The Spokane County Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment on the maps.

Public comment on the draft redistricting plan must be submitted by September 24. The maps are available on the redistricting committee’s website, redistrictspokaneco.com.