By Rob Ollikainen
Olympic Peninsula News Group
Boundaries between Clallam County commissioner districts could shift farther east next year based on population growth in the Sequim area, county officials said.
A five-member districting commission will be formed in 2021 to re-draw district lines based on the results of the 2020 U.S. Census, Commissioner Mark Ozias said.
Commissioner districts are divided by north-sound borders in Clallam County. They are adjusted every 10 years based on the census.
The population of the largest district cannot exceed the population of the small district by more than 5 percent, and voting precincts must remain within the same district to the maximum extent possible, according to the Clallam County Charter.
In 2011, the two boundaries separating the three county commissioner districts shifted east based on growth in the Sequim area.
The line between east county District 1 and central-county District 2 now runs along Boyce Road in Carlsborg. The boundary between District 2 and District 3 now traces Valley Creek in Port Angeles.
Given its low population density, District 3 covers a massive geographic area between Port Angeles and the Pacific Ocean.
Ozias raised the issue of the 2020 Census and redistricting last Monday as an “initial touch” on the upcoming process.
“None of this can really take off in earnest until probably next May or so, whenever it is that we actually receive information from the (2020) Census,” Ozias said in a work session.
The three commissioners will each appoint one representative to the districting commission.
Political parties whose candidates garner at least 5 percent of the general election vote also will appoint one representative to the commission, Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Elizabeth Stanley said.
The districting commission will hold public hearings in 2021.
County officials will have no role in drawing state or federal boundaries.
“This is going to be happening on every level simultaneously,” Stanley said.
“They’ll be reapportioning federal congressional districts, state-level districts, and then we pretty much just have to do the county-level commissioner districts and double check that everything fits together.”
Commissioner Bill Peach said the fact that the county districts have north-south boundaries would “simplify the process.”
Clallam County will hire a districting master to work with the districting commission and make recommendations for new boundaries.
The deadline for 2020 U.S. Census reporting originally was Wednesday but has been extended to Oct. 31.
As of August, Clallam County had a 68.1 percent response to the Census, up from 63.6 percent in 2010, County Administrator Rich Sill said.
Those who do not respond to the Census online, by phone or mail are counted by field data collectors, U.S. Census officials said.
Ozias said the east county had the highest response rate and the West End had the lowest response rate in the county.
“The less feedback we get for the Census from the West End of the county, the farther east, ultimately, that boundary line is going to be drawn,” Ozias said Monday.
“That often gets lost in the mix when we’re talking about funding for various federal programs. The Census also very directly impacts our representation locally.
“So the more folks who live out west who complete the census, the better your representation on this county council will be,” Ozias added.
For information on the U.S. Census, visit www.census.gov.