Population growth drives precinct changes

Two options keep West End intact

PORT ANGELES — The boundaries of Clallam County’s Forks-area commissioner District 3 would remain unchanged for the next 10 years under two of three redistricting options presented last week at three public meetings.

The alternatives are driving proposals to equalize populations in all three districts by shifting voting precincts to account for the continued burst in residential growth in Sequim-area District 1, which expanded by 14 percent in 10 years, double Port Angeles-area District 2 and quadruple West End-Port Angeles District 3.

Under the third option, District 3, which includes 8,757 Port Angeles residents — 35 percent of District 3’s total — would gain 1,204 more by adding voting Precinct 106.

The alternatives were unanimously selected Monday by the five-person county districting commission before panel members presented them Tuesday and Thursday at lightly attended public meetings held via Zoom and the county’s Granicus platform.

Chair John Teichert said the panel will select a preferred alternative Nov. 29 at a public meeting and finalize the plan Dec. 13 before sending it on to county commissioners Mark Ozias (District 1), Randy Johnson (District 2) and Bill Peach (District 3).

Every 10 years, a five-person commission, selected by county commissioners and the two major political parties, meets with different membership to guarantee equal representation in each district in light of the previous decade of population growth — or decline.

Clallam County has grown from 71,404 residents in 2010 to 77,155 in 2020, districting consultant Don Corson of Port Angeles said at Thursday’s meeting.

Population has been concentrated generally east in Sequim-area District 1 and furrowed through Port Angeles District 2 to West End-Port Angeles District 3.

The surge reflects a dynamic that has continued from 10 years ago, when Corson and fellow consultant Gene Unger of Port Angeles put together the county’s 2011 redistricting plan.

“There is this Sequim Ripple effect,” Corson said, “sort of as a metaphor a little bit there, because of the population growth on the east end of the county that is flat, it’s easier to get to, it’s closer to urban centers, etcetera, etcetera, so this has a ripple effect throughout the rest of the county that we spoke to 10 years ago.”

Corson and Unger put together the 2021 redistricting plan under a $2,000 contract with the county. It must be approved by Dec. 31.

“It is certainly a nonpartisan kind of issue,” Corson said.

“In the past, going back decades, the kind of districting that was done was frankly a little bit more partisan, and it was not straight … but literally some wiggly lines that went around different kind of things.”

The districting commission is attempting to hew to a county charter directive giving heavy weight to population without regard to politics or “communities of interest” that must be taken into account in some states, Corson and Unger said.

In addition to Teichert are panel members Walter Livingston and Brad Collins, selected by the county commissioners, and Republican Jim McEntire and Democrat Beverly Hetrick-Oosterveld.

“We have five commissioners for the public to know,” Teichert said in introducing the options at Thursday’s meeting.

“Three are appointed by the individual district county commissioners and one is appointed by the Democratic Party and one is appointed by the Republican Party, so that we have, I think, and we’ve worked really well together, we have an unbiased overview, smart, intelligent and participatory commissioner members, and I, as chair, am very thankful for that.”

Throughout their deliberations over shifting precincts from one voting area to the other, districting commissioners have focused on Charter Amendment 7.40:

“Districts shall: be approximately equal in population so that the population of the largest does not exceed that of the smallest by more than 5 percent; have boundaries that run generally north-south; be geographically compact and continuous; and be composed of whole voting precincts to the maximum extent possible.”

At their meeting Monday, districting commissioners selected three options, discarding a status-quo alternative and eliminating another that had District 3 grow by adding Port Angeles residents.

For the next 10 years, with growth a virtual certainty, it would have left the difference between District 1 and District 2 within 70 votes of the 5 percent threshold, a 4.9 percent gap, and District 3 not far behind with a 4.5 percent divide.

Here are the options the commission discussed last week:

• Alternative 1 would switch Port Angeles Precinct 106 — population 1,204 — to District 3, continuing a trend from 10 years ago when District 3 gained Port Angeles District 2 voters. District 3 would remain the county’s second largest commissioner district. It lies in the vicinity of Hurricane Ridge Road in south Port Angeles.

The maximum percent difference in populations between the largest and smallest precinct would be 1.84 percent.

• Alternative 2 would move District 1’s Lost Mountain Precinct west of Hooker Road, population 750, to District 2. The maximum percentage difference: 3.51 percent. District 2 would become the second largest commissioner district.

• Alternative 3 would move District 1’s Lost Mountain Precinct and Riverside Precinct, which is contiguous with Lost Mountain Precinct, population 1,031 residents, to District 2. The maximum percentage difference: 2.18. District 2 would become the second most populous district.

The charter says the districting commission “shall approve a final plan by majority plus one.”

In June 2011, county commissioners approved a resolution that acknowledged receipt of the plan, disbanded the districting commission and ordered that a map of the precinct adjustments be filed in the commissioners office.

“I would assume we would follow the same process as last time,” Ozias said Friday.

The plan approved by the 2011 panel, comprised of Earl Archer, Bryon Monohon, Eric Foth, Paul Martin and John Merton Marrs, approved a reconfiguration that contained a maximum difference of 2.5 percent between voting pricncts in the largest district, District 1, and the smallest District, District 2.

District 1 ended up with 24,641 residents, Distinct 2 had 22,853 residents and District 3 had 23,910 residents.

The current population in District 1 is 28,132 residents, while District 2 has 24,351 residents and District 3 has 24,672 residents.

District 1’s population has increased by 14 percent, District 2 has increased by 6.5 percent, and District 3 by 3.2 percent.

Corson noted the change in the county’s population has been hard to ignore.

“Everybody has noticed, I’m sure, over the last 10 years or [who] has lived here for very long, knows that traffic has been increasing, a variety of other kind of things have been happening that would say that, boy, there seems like there are more people around here, and some of them are actually living here,” he said.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].