On August 9, members of a public forum with the Washington Redistricting Commission, advocated for a new 10th Congressional District in South King County (and state legislative districts in King, Pierce and Yakima counties) where a majority of people of color reside.
The 2010 Census demonstrated a profound growth of minority populations in cities that make up South King County. As a result, advocacy groups are suggesting a new 10th Congressional district, which includes the area of Newcastle and north of White Center, east as far as the Renton Highlands and Fairwood and south to Federal Way and Lakeland. The total area of this proposed 10th Congressional District holds over 400,000 people, 57 percent of which (or over 230,000) are people of color.
This redistricting, or re-drawing of electoral district boundaries means those in the district can determine its representatives, who sits on its school board, city council members, state legislators, and congress through its unity as a district — in this case, as a powerful community made up of mostly minority groups. Redistricting can affect who can run and who can win. These district lines also influence whether or not that community’s elected officials feel obligated to respond to that community’s needs.
“Our community has grown significantly over the last decade,” said Nanette Fok of the Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Engagement (APACE). “It’s important that our issues are heard and representatives will be accountable to our needs.”
In the past, API and minority groups have been split among legislative districts, vastly diminishing the strength of their voice and influence with political leaders. During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, the people most affected by the city-wide damage were Korean American small business owners. To pay for damages due to the riots, the small business owners pleaded with political leaders to help. But the areas impacted by the riots, populated by those Korean American-owned businesses, were split into different congressional districts and thus, political leaders felt little obligation to support this group, who had little clout in their respective districts.
Groups that participated in the Aug. 9 public forum, held at the New Holly Gathering Hall in Seattle, were members of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, United for Fair Representation, and APACE.
Cherry Cayabyab, from the United for Fair Representation, shared why the redistricting proposal for a 10th district is important for APIs.
“I think it’s important to work collaboratively with other minority communities to achieve their majority-minority districts because it benefits all of us,” Cayabyab said. “It encourages civic engagement and will help address APIs feeling that their vote doesn’t count when it will matter in the new 10th Congressional District.”
Akemi Matsumoto of APACE believes a 10th Congressional District will carve a path for new API political leaders.
“Historically, APIs have not been elected to public office,” she said. “It’s time for us to speak as a community. This redistricting can magnify our long-term goal to elect APIs to public office.”
Michael Woo, the lead organizer for the green jobs advocacy group, Got Green, said “This redistricting is outside of what we’re paying attention to, but it’s so important. Right now, we are enjoying representation from people who are Asian and from our community. Their families and life experiences reflect the struggle of APIs,” he said. Woo said he planned to testify at the public forum to maintain the 11th district, currently represented by Rep. Bob Hasegawa. In a current proposal by the commission, a portion of Beacon Hill will be carved out, resulting in the loss of a significant minority voice for its residents.
For other attendees like Chio Saeteurn of Got Green, attending the forum was an opportunity to learn more about redistricting and how that impacts local minority communities.
“I want to learn more about the process and how it marginalizes communities of color and their representation,” she said. “I want to know how these lines are being drawn and its impact at the policy level. People don’t always understand it — I want to go back to my family and educate them on this process.”