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Lucky 13? WA population keeps on growing

by David Ammons | December 23rd, 2009

Washington 13th in censusNew Census projections show that we’re on the move in Washington — people moving in from other states and folks having babies.  In the past decade, we’ve grown by 13 percent and are now the 13th largest state!  And it could be Lucky 13 if we wind up gaining a new congressional seat.

We’ve grown by nearly 100,000 during the last year and — drum roll please — our new statewide population number is nearly 6.7 million. It’s 6,664,195, up over 770,000 from the April, 2000, number of 5,894,143.

A decade ago, we were the 15th most populous state.

Is our population growth enough to pick up a 10th congressional seat? It’s too early to say for sure, especially since the new national Census of 2010 still awaits, to give us the official numbers.  A year ago, the analysts at Election Data Services put us in the small cluster of states that could vie for the 435th and final congressional seat.  Oregon is another possible winner.  Some states are losing population relative to the rest of the country and others are growing faster than most of the rest of the USA.

The rejiggering of the 435 districts among the states, to make representation more equitable, is called “reapportionment.”

Once we know for sure how many districts we have, the US and state constitutions require us to “redistrict,” meaning to redraw our districts (both congressional and legislative) so that they are of equal population.

In Washington, happily, a voter-approved constitutional amendment assigns that duty not to the Legislature, but to a bipartisan citizen commission — two Rs and two Ds are the voting members and they appoint a fifth person to serve as non-voting chair.  Maps must be agreed to by at least three commissioners, and the Legislature’s vote is basically up-or-down.  This process already is under way at the staff level at the state Elections Division, and commissioners will be picked in 2011.  New districts take effect in 2012.

3 Responses to “Lucky 13? WA population keeps on growing”

  1. Kevin Paulich says:

    Is there any ongoing organized effort or any historical precedence to the notion of amending the constitution so as to fill our allotted congressional seats by way of proportionate representation? For example, if we had 10 seats alloted to Washington State, and in a statewide vote 50% voted Democrat, 30% Republican, 10% Libertarian, and 10% Green, then 5 of our seats would go to Democrats, 3 to Republicans and 1 each to the Libertarians and the Greens. There would need to be rules apportioning our seats based upon percentages of less than 10 as there are in many Parliaments. Have any other states ever done this? Does the Federal Constitution ban such a means of allocation of our Congressional seats, or would a State Amendment be sufficient to bring about such a system?

  2. David Ammons says:

    the only sort-of-similar idea I’ve heard batted around in the Legislature, and never seriously considered for adoption, is to award a district’s electoral vote to the popular winner. We, and most states, are winner-take-all. As far as I know, no other states have ever tried the method you raise for congressional representation. That would seem to fly of majority rule in each district.

  3. Nick Pharris says:

    Dave, I think Kevin is talking about electing Representatives to Congress, not electoral votes for President. The idea would be not to have any districts at all, just 10 slots up for grabs statewide, assigned to the parties by proportional representation. Israel elects their legislature (the Knesset) this way, with no constituencies, just a nationwide vote.

    I know Washington has had at-large representatives in the past (I think back when they first added the 8th Congressional seat), and I don’t know of any Federal Constitutional impediment to doing it this way (though there are certainly state statutes that mandate the creation of single-member districts).

    That said, I tend to favor single-member geographic constituencies, because it gives the people of a district a representative who is clearly elected to represent their interests specifically. Proportional representation also generally requires the creation of party lists of candidates, something I’m not thrilled about because it tends to sap legislators’ independence, given that they are basically wholly dependent on the party for their positions.

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