Little Saigon. 

We are nearing the close of the once-per-decade redistricting process for Washington state, which will result in new district lines for all 49 legislative districts and 10 congressional districts. Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) and Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Empowerment (APACE) as CID/South-Seattle serving organizations part of Redistricting Justice for Washington, are concerned with how this will impact Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. When we are divided up, families, schools, and communities lose out on vital resources. Our CID Asian American communities need to stay together in the 37th Legislative District and stay with Asian Americans and other South Seattle communities of color in the 9th Congressional District.

Washington state has established a five-member Redistricting Commission, composed of two members selected by the Democratic Caucus, two by the Republican Caucus, and a non-voting chair. With this structure, it is our responsibility to work with commissioners and advocate for maps that represent our communities and their needs. Proposals from the commissioners have raised concerns for Chinatown-International District and parts of South Seattle. We do not want to see our communities split up or moved into other districts where we will lack meaningful representation and lose out on access to crucial resources.

On the legislative side, two maps deeply concern us. Commissioner Graves attempts to split our communities between the 43rd and 37th districts by dividing them along the I-5 freeway. Commissioner Fain also attempts to divide our communities along the freeway into the 34th and 37th districts. Only Commissioners Walkinshaw and Sims respect our communities by keeping us together in the 37th Legislative District, where we have some of the highest concentration of Asian Americans in South Seattle. We urge community members to tell the Commission that our neighborhood should stay together in the 37th LD.

On the congressional side, we find all four maps troubling. Three maps move the CID and South Seattle completely out of the 9th district and into the 7th district, splitting us off from other communities of color in South King County. The exception, Commissioner Graves’ map, splits our community along the freeway line into the 7th and 9th districts. The commissioners all favor including upper-income areas like Bellevue, Newcastle, and Mercer Island for the 9th district, instead of creating a Southend-based 9th district with a working class people of color majority. The CID and South Seattle community need to be in the 9th district for our communities to be able to elect representative candidates and access resources. We urge community members to let the commission know that the CID and South Seattle should stay in the 9th Congressional District.

It is vital that we get as many people as possible contacting the commission in these remaining days, and we have a direct way to do so. The best way is to use the Redistricting Commission website to directly comment on maps. Redistricting Justice for Washington has created detailed instructions for doing this, which are on their website:

November 15th is the constitutional deadline for the Commission to submit maps to our state legislature, so we need to make sure we are contacting them as soon as possible. Our Asian American communities in the CID and South Seattle should be able to stay together to make sure we can elect our representatives of choice and access the resources that families here need and deserve.

Joseph Shoji Lachman is a resident of the Chinatown-International District and serves as the Policy Analyst at Asian Counseling and Referral Service, helping coordinate legislative advocacy efforts both for ACRS and the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition (APIC) of Washington.

Alisa Lee is the Program Manager for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Empowerment, where she runs the organization’s different organizing and advocacy efforts.

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