Do Districts Have a Race Problem?

Would-Be Supporters Are Holding Back


No, the problem is that voters have just become so accustomed to gerrymandering of districts, that lines drawn based on geographical boundaries and similar in shape seem odd to them. Unfortunately, this is why more than 3/4 of Congress currently holds "safe" seats and gets re-elected every year.
It is disappointing that this non-issue continues to be flogged. See…

The second majority minority district in the nine district map prepared by Win/Win members took the west side of SE, the east side of West Seattle, and Downtown and Belltown west of I-5 up to Denny. More districts but with a more gerrymandered map to squeeze out a second minority district! And the second minority district has 54% POC (people of color). (Charter 19 has three other districts with 26 to 29% POC--#1 West, #3 Central, and #5 North.)

It is very distressing to me that an inherently democratic change in Seattle's government is being opposed by people who claim to support progressive policies. If they succeed in convincing people to vote no on Charter Amendment No. 19, is the Win/Win coalition going to put the resources into getting its version on the ballot next year? It was ten years since the last time a district measure was on the ballot, and it lost 53.75% to 46.25%; it was an underfunded effort, and got crushed by large corporate expenditures just before the election.

Seattle is one of only three large cities left in the U.S. still using regressive at-large elections for city council. Spokane and Tacoma both use districts, along with over a dozen smaller Washington cities. Seattle City Council members currently represent 630,000 people. In San Francisco, 73,000. New York, 160,000. Seattle under Charter Amendment 19, 90,000.

It is time.

really silly article.

we used to have three minorities on the city council, we're down to one.

with the all at large system, there are how many "majority minority" districts?? ZERO.

with the 7-2 districts proposal, there are how many majority minority districts? ONE.

that's an increase of a large percent, zero to one.

and moreover, Seattle has elected minorities at large like Sherry Harris, Choe, ...NOrm Rice. There's no reason to think a minority can't win in ANY district in Seattle, when they won at large before.

The reason for districts is a councilmember accountable to you in your district and it's voters is ACCOUNTABLE and this helps ensure that city services and attention go where voters want, both on localized or citywide issues.

in the all at large system, city attention and services go where these people want them:

Chris Hansen. Paul Allen. Vulcan. Big interests that get citywide attention.

There's a reason we have districts for every other legislative body we vote for -- it's more populist, more accountable, and it works rather well.

and btw historically, at large is used to discriminate against minorities. Usually because to run at large you need the big money, the big contacts, the shallow citywide appeal of say a jim Compton or a jean gooden.....

who do we get with districts? we got a state senator named ed murray in a districted state senate race. He represented his district, but his district's issue was also a state issue: gender equality. if this position had been citywide, a gay person likely would not have been elected nor would he have made gay equal rights his no. 1 issue for years. real representatives of real people comes with districts. with at large you get representation of some phony citywide interest like sponsoring a billionaire's arena with millions in subsidies, rebuilding mercer for $200 million instead of getting real transit to ballard, or west seattle. Jim McDermott Barack Obama Patty Murray all were elected by districts. it works. vote yes on charter amendment 19.
People who support "people of color" should get behind Districts and vote yes on Charter Amendment 19. Here's why: The current At-Large system is a district system. It is one district for everyone. As it happens that district is overwhelmingly white and here's the kicker it has always been so. The At-Large system is basically a Jim Crow law that is still on the books and needs to go away.

Here are the number from the City's site.
Race & Ethnicity Quick Statistics
2010 Census Estimates

•2010 Population Count: 608,660
White - 69.5%
Black or African American - 7.9%
Amer. Indian & Alaska Native - 0.8%
Asian - 13.8%
Native Hawaiian & Other Pac. Islander - 0.4%
Other race - 2.4%
Two or more races - 5.1%
•Hispanic or Latino ethnicity (of any race): 6.6%
•Persons of color: 33.7%…

Given that Seattle has a history of voting for "people of color" from the President down to the the school baord, I don't think there is a strong claim for bias. However, for those who think canidates only reflect demographics sticking with the At-Large system is a vote against minorities in Seattle.

Well, as the designer of the 7 district plan, I’ll weigh in. The layout of the districts followed the good government criteria of equal population, fair treatment of minorities and compact districts that respect natural communities that people can identify with and that reflect the wonderful diversity of our city. Only an extreme gerrymander with 9 districts would yield a dubious two minority district plan. Better a strong minority district, which is a lot better than none! Districts will improve the chances of women and less affluent candidates. At large elections tend to give us downtown establishment guys. Districts will make it easier for real progressives to compete in some areas. PS. I’m probably far to the left of most of the rest of you! Dick Morrill
Let's not forget that, in the primary, Kshama Sawant kicked Richard Conlin's ass in District 3 - Conlin's own "white majority" district. (she did better there than in the minority-majority southeast).

The second 'minority majority' district gerrymandered by Win-Win (at 54% "minority") really means nothing. Minorities do not vote as a block, and it is naive to suggest they would (perhaps wishful thinking from the white majority of youngsters that staff WWN).

And their district would likely not stay minority long since it included areas of downtown where greater growth is targeted and occurring, and which so far is attracting mostly (unfortunately) a wealthier white demographic.

There is no guarantee that this manufactured district would ever deliver a minority councilmember.

I don't remember using the word "garbage" in context with districts, I believe it was in regard to "your" using "race" as at weapon to try to dislodge opinion! Is the paper so "hard up" that it uses "racism" as a tool to get people to read you? Seattle voters are much smarter than that! People of all different shapes, sizes, and skin color live in ALL proposed districts in this City. We also have hundreds of supporters, however they are just plain "citizens" who want to have their say in government and not have to additionally pay for it! a "Yes on Charter Amendment 19 does NOT require any additional tax or "contribution"
and treats all citizens fairly as we are all members of the same race. The Human One!!!!!
Regarding district elections:

Dear Ms. Minard and other Stranger writers,

Below is a copy of a letter David Bloom and I forwarded last February to Win/Win and other labor activists responding to the notion that our 7-2 District proposal was somehow not racially sensitive.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if anything, the shoe's on the other foot for reasons stated below. We greatly respect the work of Win/Win, but on this topic, they are way off base. And quite frankly, it's an insult to all the progressive supporters (shown listed on the Charter 19 website who back it) and who helped draft the proposal including the two of us who've dedicated our adult lives to overcoming racial and economic inequality in our city. As you'll see below we requested more than one meeting with them to talk this out which they never agreed to.

Letter begins here (I've excerpted a few sentences in the interests of brevity):

Dear friends in the progressive and labor communities. We, like many others who have endorsed this proposal, heartily disagree that our proposal [Charter 19, 7-2 Mixed System] is racially insensitive. We, like you, are driven by a desire to make the Seattle City Council more representative of our neighborhoods and especially our growing racial and ethnic diversity.

Further, we request that you take a closer look at your 9-0 alternative proposal and map which shows a district boundary that cuts Southeast Seattle and West Seattle in half and then lumps half of each of those communities with the downtown. Combining any part of these predominantly low income and minority communities with the power brokers in downtown would actually dilute the potential for a district system to empower communities of color, especially when compared with our 7-2 proposal.

We believe that we are all in agreement regarding the need to present a district election proposal that will ensure fair and equal representation, especially for communities of color, who are usually left out of decisions of our current City Council due to the influence of the downtown business community. We also agree on the need for structural reforms that ensure a fairer and more equal distribution of the city's resources. We all want a proposal that will help bring us new truly progressive leadership so that no community, especially low income and minority communities, can continue to be denied equal access to public policy decisions that affect them and a fair share of the city's resources. This is THE REASON we worked so hard to initiate this effort in the first place.

We firmly believe that our proposal does a better job of achieving these goals than the 9-0 alternative proposal, especially in view of the fact that it is unlikely that a 9-0 system can win - it's failed at least twice before and probably would do so again. Unlike previous efforts, influential sources, have written favorably about our proposal. And the League of Women Voters, which has historically opposed district elections, are not this time. Much of this support is based on the fact we're offering a mixed system. It is the very inclusion of two at-large seats in our proposal they have cited that make it worth considering. Also, the King Co. and 46th Democrats have supported the proposal and we would point out that leadership in the minority community hasn't hesitated to jump on board.

Another problem with your 9-0 proposal is that it is likely not legal since it avoids legally required (whenever possible) clear geographic boundaries and traditional neighborhood boundaries. Given the configuration of its proposed boundaries, it actually does a poorer job of ensuring that the needs of low income people and communities of color are met.

Finally, we made overtures to you last October when there was time for thorough discussions and possibly even some changes to our proposal. We waited for 2 months for a reply/response to our proposal from you after that October meeting. Despite several attempts, we only heard back from you in late December. At that late stage in the game you insisted on a fundamental revamping of our proposal which would have negated months of work and led to loss of a lot of our support - all for a 9-0 proposal that we believe is not legal, will not do what you say it will, will lose the considerable support that we have generated, and will probably lose at the polls.

Before taking further action, we would like to talk to you about all these issue and try to resolve our differences so we can pass a district election proposal that will work for Seattle’s citizens and not saddle ourselves indefinitely with the flawed system that currently exists.

- David Bloom and John V. Fox Seattle Displacement Coalition
@Zander:Seattle had district voting before WW2;but I guess the WASPs wanted to keep out "darklings",so they implemented a voting system that is clearly in violation of the both the Civil Rights Act of 1964,but also the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (and perhaps even the First Amendment).But Charter Amendment 19 is an improvement upon the SStatuSS KKKwo in Sickattle the Overpriced.A bigger issue is this:why is it that cities in Europe the size of Seattle have twice as many city-council seats?(hint:there needs to be more city-council seats to more fairly represent the political diversity of the populace.Ditto for the county council,the state legislature,and the CONgross. --- http://www.proportionalrepresentation.or… , )
@5: You've spent your entire career arguing against density, against public transit, against the very concept of cities.

Your entire campaign is led and funded by professed Lesser Seattle NIMBYs, and your supposedly "neutral" map takes great care to ensure that areas populated by renters and young people are slightly outweighed by quasi-suburban tracts in each and every district.

So tell us, please, in what possible way you are "far to the left of most of the rest of us".
d.p. and all
I love and have lived in big cities all my life. I have no problem with density, for the half of the population that thrives in it, but do not believe it should be forced on those who don’t, i.e. the majority of families. I’ve been a socialist since I was 14 (inner L.A.), and my distrust of “smart growth” as practiced here, is from the LEFT, that it transfers wealth from the poor to the rich, telling the less affluent that they are not good enough for houses, but should make do with high-rises.
PS Three districts have strong renter majorities (3rd, 4th and 7th) and the 2nd is majority minority. By the next census , the 2nd, 5th and 6th are likely to be majority rental. Dick M
"If district elections are about giving more people a voice, why is the campaign running without support from any major progressive groups?"

Possibly because progressive groups (ie construction and big business) are so entrenched in the current system they don't stand to benefit from it. Progressive groups run Seattle politics as it stands now, why would they support something that looks to shake that up?

As for 'renters,' the district map has large swaths of renting districts/areas in each district. District 1 with likely the least but they have large numbers along California, and Housing areas like High Point. District 2 touches the southern portion of downtown which has an increasing number of renters, not to mention the housing areas on Beacon Hill, along MLK and Rainier Ave's. District 3 is obviously capitol hill. District 4 has the entire U District, likely portions of Roosevelt and Lake City, not to mention the large number of units along Sand Point Way. District 5 has Lake City and Aurora Corridors, not to forget Northgate, 15th Ave NE and Greenwood Ave N. District 6 has Greenlake, Ballard, Fremont. District 7 has East Magnolia, Interbay, Lower Queen Anne and Belltown.

I would like to see the census numbers that you rely upon for that claim, because I have a hard time believing you.

When I look at the detailed version of your map, I see the dense/renter communities within two miles of downtown carefully divvied into three districts to dilute their power. I see Belltown overwhelmed by the urbanity-averse Queen Anne Hill and Magnolia. I see renters' Capitol Hill lumped in with the wealthy homeowners north and east. I see Fremont split in half and the pro-growth/pro-transit neighborhoods near the Ship Canal carefully subsumed by the voters of quasi-suburban sprawl to their north.

Your map looks to me like a recipe for at least six Lesser Seattle candidates waltzing into city hall. So much for "better representation" of many needs and viewpoints.

Meanwhile, your bedfellows belie your claims of leftward sympathies. Your campaign is spearheaded by a businessperson with a stated vendetta against bus lanes. Your NIMBY funders are homeowners who would see their property values balloon if development were to freeze in its tracks.

Oh, but you are also on record as opposing the Growth Management Act; your anachronistic and appallingly unworldly association of the urban form with "bad for families" has led you to advocate unfettered sprawl, made inevitable by a freeze on urban development.

So your friends are right-wing, your positions are regressive (and illogical to boot), and your map gives self-interested NIMBYism, already so rampant, even more weight. Frankly, your claim to "socialist" affiliation comes across as thoroughly delusional.
Districts no matter how they are chosen REDUCE my representation. Why would i only want to vote for three council members where now i get to vote for them ALL? Right now ALL the council members are beholden to me, i can call up any or all of them and tell them what i want.
If Seattle is majority white and everybody votes on council members for all districts, doesn't that make it more likely that candidates favoring 'white' interests (whatever that means) will get all nine seats? If there is one district with majority non-white then at least there is the one...

That said, the proposed 7 districts seem intuitive, not quirky or like a lot of effort was put into rigging them. But who knows what they will come up with 10 years from now.

On the other hand I am turned off by the potential for in-fighting and tunnel vision.

Any one out there excited to impose term limits and/or fully publicly funded elections where everyone able to gather enough initial support gets the SAME AMOUNT to spend? I can't say I'm enamoured with either prop 1 or charter amendment 19.
@7. That's right, Faye Garneau, it is for
the people. That's is why you are PERSONALLY
spending over $250,000 for this grass roots
campaign for the people. You basically paid for
this Charter 19. I wonder which people are
you trying to benefit, since Faye Garneau
is a well-known, Republican financial backer.

Btw, the people should know that this is Faye Garneau's second time trying to get districts.
The first time, resulted in fines of $60,000
in Seattle for campaign finance violations, which was in part of a larger $5 MILLION dollar fine statewide. I surprised that how some people didn't get prison time for these violations.

@8. John Fox and David Bloom.

I have to respectfully disagree to your
understanding of events. The unions and
the minority groups did not like the map
and districts, citing problems addressed
in the article of The Stranger. They wanted
some adjustments and compromise. However,
my understanding was that Faye Garneau
threatened to pull all financial backing
(currently $250K) if the map was altered
to address these problems. So,the mapped
stayed and the unions and minority groups
pulled out.

Please vote NO on Charter Amendment 19.
Protect not only your voting rights, but
also for others.

@16--Your accusations are not accurate: SDN approached UFCW, SEIU, OneAmerica, et al. and asked if they wanted to join the campaign for district elections. They refused after determining that you cannot get a second majority minority district in Seattle with seven districts. They did figure out a way to squeeze a second one in with nine districts. I posted their map at…

The SDN committee unanimously agreed to stick with the possible (7-2) instead of shifting to the politically unlikely (three time loser 9-0). The minority advocates did not want "adjustments and compromise," they wanted to totally make over the campaign. SDN told them if they thought 9-0 was better, UFCW et al had the resources to get it on the ballot. Imagine how much better this campaign would have been if the choices were 7-2, 9-0, and 0-9.

I explained much of the above here in February:…

Most of the active work on the campaign has been done by Democrats!