The Pierce County Council took the first steps in the process of making changes to the boundaries of its seven council districts to account for population changes over the last decade per the 2020 Census.
At its Sept. 7 meeting, the council appointed four members to the Pierce County Districting Committee: Sharon Hanek, Justin Leighton, former council Chair Doug Richardson and Joy Stanford.
Composed of two members from each major party — Democrat and Republican — the districting committee is tasked with drawing and adopting a district plan for the county, with the goal being to have roughly the same population size within each council district.
State law requires the new district boundaries be completed by Dec. 31, 2021. Upon approval, the new boundaries go to the Pierce County Auditor’s Office so the elections division can make changes to the county’s 611 precincts as needed. All of this must be completed by May 2, 2022, before candidate filing week.
Council members were pleased with the overall process for redrawing district boundaries, even if it is a bit complex.
“Democracy is messy sometimes,” observed Councilmember Ryan Mello observed.
“This system seems to have quite a few safeguards to try to highly minimize that, and therefore increase public trust and transparencies,” he added, referencing his earlier mention of gerrymandering, the manipulation of boundaries so as to favor one party.
“And I look forward to this process unfolding in the coming weeks and months,” Councilmember Hans Zeiger said.
The four committee members will appoint a fifth member to serve as chair.
The committee, once formed, has 30 days to meet and appoint a districting master responsible for drawing the redistricting plan. Applications are currently being accepted for this position at https://www.piercecountywa.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=5371.
The deadline is 3 p.m. Thursday.
The districting master has 60 days to draw a districting plan, which must be submitted to the committee for adoption. The committee has 15 days to adopt the proposed plan. Once adopted, the plan will be filed with the filing officer, at which point it become effective.
In other business, the council passed an ordinance adopting amendments to the Pierce County Code as part of implementing map and policy amendments from the 2021 Comprehensive Plan amendment cycle.
• The council passed an ordinance providing economic relief for Pierce County sewer customers and continuing the suspension of certain penalties and interest assessed on late payments.
• The council passed a resolution initiating an evaluation of the reduction of the speed limit for certain segments of Orting-Kapowsin Highway East and Alder Cutoff Road East for accommodating wheeled all-terrain vehicles and requesting recommendations from the county engineer.
• The council passed a resolution directing the county engineer to consult with the state Department of Transportation on the authorization of wheeled all-terrain vehicle usage on certain segments of state Routes 7 and 706 and requesting the county engineer produce a report.
• The council passed a resolution recognizing the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and proclaiming Sept. 11, 2021, as Patriot Day in Pierce County.