Assist the City of Everett, WA with converting from an at-large system to a districting system
The citizens of Everett, WA passed a referendum to convert from a voting system with a seven (7) member city council, that were elected at-large, to a system with two council members elected at-large and five (5) members elected to single-member districts. The city also instituded a nine member independent districting commission that was tasked with developing the city’s five single member districting plan. Finally, the city hired CensusChannel (Tony Fairfax) as their Districting Master to assist with developing their first districting plan.
The Development of a Five District Plan
CensusChannel started the effort by providing generalized redistricting training to the commission members. Throughout the entire process, CensusChannel adhered to federal (Voting Rights Act), state, and local redistricting criteria to develop all of the plans. Specifically, this included equal population, contiguity, compactness, following natural boundaries, preservation of communities of interest, and minimizing political subdivision splits.
For instance, communities of interest were always considered using the results from a citywide survey. In order to assist the commission with district configuration decisions, CensusChannel generated socioeconomic maps (matching the results from the citywide survey) at the neighborhood and precinct levels. In addition to the pdf maps, CensusChannel created an online interactive mapping site for the commission and the public to access (utilizing ArcGIS online). The online interactive mapping site contained various district plans and city-specific layers.
Since this was Everett, WA’s first districting plan, the development strategy was to initially establish district cores (which represented the seeds for the districts). Once the commission selected the cores, several initial plans were developed by CensusChannel and presented to the commission. The commission provided comments and suggested modifications for each preliminary plan. CensusChannel generated multiple iterations of sets of plans that were presented and commented on by the commission. Eventually, the commission settled on a proposed final draft plan that was presented to the public at several forums.
In the end, the commission modified the proposed final draft plan using public comments to produce a final plan. The final plan was approved by the commission and by the Everett, WA city council.