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Bellevue may be grouped with South Seattle, South King County in new 'majority-minority' congressional district
Part or all of Bellevue may become a part of the state's first congressional district where minorities make up a majority of the population, according to draft plans released Tuesday by the State Redistricting Commission. Such a district would include portions of south Seattle and cities in South King County.
Three of the four members - Tim Ceis, former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, and former State Rep. Tom Huff - created a district with minorities representing more than 50 percent of the constituency.
Gorton, whose plan has Bellevue grouped with South Seattle, Renton and Kent, said his first priority was population equity, while the second was keeping cities together. In his plan, only three cities are split into multiple districts.
"This is about far more than majority-minority," he said.
Bellevue is now split between the 1st and 8th districts. The 8th contains the majority of the city along with portions of Renton, Auburn, Kent and rural King and Pierce counties. The 1st District encompasses a small portion of Bellevue north of SR-520 along with portions of North King, South Snohomish and Kitsap counties.
Each of the four members of the commission kept Bellevue split between the 41st and 48th legislative districts in their plans.
Democrat Dean Foster was the only member without a majority-minority congressional district, but he also grouped Bellevue with South King County – in what would be the 9th District.
The two other plans split Bellevue along Interstate 90, with the southern portion in the majority-minority district and the northern portion in the 1st District with Kirkland and Redmond. This plan, authored by Ceis, was designed to give members of South King County a greater voice. He noted lower college graduation rates in this area, and Ceis felt these residents needed a greater voice in state and federal issues.
"Poverty has moved out of the central city; that's a trend that's occurring all over the country," said Ceis, the former deputy mayor of Seattle.
The final plan, authored by Huff, places Bellevue and Issaquah as primary population centers in a sprawling, rural 8th district that extends into Chelan and Kittitas counties, including the cities of Wenatchee and Ellensburg.
Following the presentation, members of the public, primarily minority advocate associations, urged the committee to maintain the majority-minority districts as a center piece of the plan. They said this could help undo a history of political problems in the redistricting process that his left minority populations feeling disenfranchised.
"What you want is not people who are feeling left out and feel like they have no ability to influence the government, but people who feel like they can participate and push the government to do the right thing for all the citizens of the state," said Wallace Webster.
The four plans serve as the starting point for building the final redistricting map. The maps are due Jan. 1, 2011, but the committee members said during the meeting they have set a Nov. 1 deadline so the public can have adequate time to digest the information and comment.
The committee is taking comments from the public on the four draft maps up until its Oct. 11 meeting.