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County looks to redraw district boundaries

"Kitsap County Republican Party Chairwoman Shirley Brown wants a bipartisan panel installed to study and redraw the three commissioner districts to reflect population changes.But she probably won't get one, since state law doesn't require local jurisdictions to appoint redistricting panels. Instead, the legislative body - in this case, the Kitsap County Commissioners - conducts redistricting each decade after U.S. Census data is available.Let's redraw the county commissioner districts with the same level of integrity as the state of Washington in its effort to redistrict the legislative and congressional districts, said Brown, a Poulsbo resident and newly selected county GOP chairwoman. Let's establish a panel that mirrors the state's five-member redistricting commission.Brown was referring to the state redistricting panel, which consists of two Democrats, two Republicans and one non-voting, independent member. The panel currently is analyzing how to redraw Washington's 49 legislative and nine congressional districts and expects to submit a plan to the Legislature in December.Brown said the commissioners should appoint a similar five-member panel even though they are not required to do so.I got a bunch of blank stares when she made the request at a commissioners' meeting in July, Brown said.Commissioner Tim Botkin, who represents District 3, said the board isn't considering appointing a separate panel. Botkin, whose district needs an additional 11,008 residents to be equal to the North and South Kitsap districts, doesn't anticipate any conflicts or gerrymandering during the effort. What I would like to do is wait to see what happens with the federal and state redistricting efforts, the Central Kitsap Democrat said. That way we can square the local districts with those plans, but I don't know if we can wait that long.They can't. Since they received Census data in May, the board is required to devise a redistricting proposal by the end the year.Any adopted boundary changes wouldn't come into play until the 2002 election, when Botkin's commissioner seat will be up for election.A possible wild card is a proposed county charter currently being crafted by the Kitsap County Board of Freeholders. If adopted by voters next year, the new charter would establish five county council districts, rather than three. The current draft of the charter would create a redistricting commission similar to that sought by Brown.The county commissioners aren't required to go through this much more extensive process, said Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn. I just don't think it's necessary at the county level, since there's not much opportunity to import some type of political agenda.While the county doesn't have to install a panel, the commissioners have guidelines on redrawing the three commissioner districts, Flynn said.They are expected to maintain geographic and community integrity, while not favoring or disfavoring one group over another.At least one public hearing will be scheduled to solicit comment from residents before the commissioners adopt changes.Flynn said Census data indicates both the North and South Kitsap commissioner districts have grown more quickly than the Central Kitsap commissioner district.North Kitsap District 1 is overpopulated by 9,509 residents and South Kitsap District 2 is overpopulated by a 1,499. Flynn said each districts should have about 77,322 residents. "

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