Precinct changes tossed at last minute

New plan recommended

Ron Richards

Ron Richards

PORT ANGELES — Carlsborg’s voters would shift to Port Angeles Clallam County commissioner District 2 under a revamped voter redistricting plan preferred by the county redistricting commission.

The plan was recommended for approval Monday.

The revised proposal for equalizing voter populations in the three partisan commissioner districts is based on a process corrected by county districting commission consultants Don Corson and Gene Unger, who put together the county’s 2011 redistricting plan that is being revised.

County districting commission members had selected three alternatives Nov. 15 and presented them at public meetings Nov. 16 and Nov. 18.

They discarded all three and chose the new plan Monday from four new alternatives.

The consultants’ methodology was challenged by retired attorney and former Democratic County Commissioner Ron Richards of Port Angeles and other commenters on the proposals.

In a Nov. 19 email to county commissioners, Richards said all three original alternatives exceeded the 5 percent population threshold — mandated in the county charter — between the largest and smallest districts, leaving fast-growing Sequim District 1 under-represented.

In the now discarded plans, Corson and Unger, who are under a $2,000 contract with the county, had compared the percentages of each district’s population rather than the populations.

Districting Commissioner Beverly Hetrick-Oosterveld, representing the county Democratic Party on the board, said she wanted assurances that new calculations were based on the population, not the percent of the total population.

“What we’ve already done here is to correct the methodology, and we believe that the alternatives, as we would like to call them now — one, two, three and four — have been calculated to the charter,” Corson responded.

Under the new alternative, the 2,952 Sequim District 2 voters in the Carlsborg, Riverside and Lost Mountain precincts would shift to Port Angeles District 2, which would shift 1,204 voters from Port Angeles Precinct 106 to West End-Port Angeles commissioner District 3.

The three other plans were close to or exceeded the 5 percent threshold of population that, according to the county charter, must exist between the least and most populated districts among Sequim District 1.

That district is represented by Democrat Mark Ozias, while Port Angeles District 2 is represented by Randy Johnson, no party preference, and West End-Port Angeles District 3 is represented by Republican Bill Peach, who is running for reelection in 2022.

Once the 5 percent threshold is exceeded, the districting plan is out of compliance with the county charter. That would come well before 10 years if districting commissioners stuck with the status quo for 10 more years, they decided Nov. 15, deciding then to discard the status quo as an option.

In two of the plans considered Monday, the population difference between Districts 1 and 2 would have exceeded 4.5 percent from Day 1.

A county districting commission meets every 10 years following the national census to change the alignment of voter precincts in each of the three county commissioner district based on changes in population.

It guarantees voters in each district are not underrepresented with too many voters and over-represented with too few voters in keeping with the one-person, one-vote rule.

That rule has been codified by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1964 in Reynolds v. Sims, which said an individual’s voting power should be equivalent to another person’s within the same state (www.law.cornell.edu).

The alternative the five-person districting commission selected Monday gives District 1, the county’s fastest growing and most populous district, time to grow, said districting Commissioner Brad Collins, a former Port Angeles City Council member.

Its population would shrink from 28,132 to 25,180, making it the smallest county commissioner district instead of the largest.

Port Angeles District 2 would grow from 24,351 to 26,099, making it the largest.

District 2 would have 3.65 percent more population than District 1, the greatest difference among the three voting areas.

West End-Port Angeles District 3 would grow from 24,672 to 25,876, keeping it the least populous district — but adding a Port Angeles precinct, which was fading as an option until Richards’ letter.

The alternative recommended Monday will be voted on Dec. 13 by districting commissioners, who have until Dec. 31 to make a decision.

Commenter Dale Jarvis had agreed with Richards, commission Chair John Teichert said.

Teichert said Richards’ comments on the districting plan “jarred us all to make sure that we were following those county charter requirements.”

Richards said the preferred alternative meets all the requirements of the charter.

“In this day and age where everybody is doing all they can to gerrymand[er] and twist precincts here and there, it’s really good that Clallam County Charter has spelled out in such detail the parameters that you have to comply with,” he said.

“If you do your job right, it totally does away with politics and gerrymandering.”

In an email Tuesday, Richards portrayed the districting commission’s actions Monday as “the left and the right coming together in a bellwether county to do something positive for democracy.”

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

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