Seattle Redistricting Overview

The Redistricting Commission is responsible for overseeing the development of new City Council district lines in response to the completed 2020 Census.  

The Commission appoints a Districting Master to draw a districting plan for the City, develop a draft districts proposal based on that plan, facilitate a process of public comment on that proposal, and ultimately vote upon approval of that proposal for transmission to the State of Washington.

The Redistricting Commission may employ experts, consultants, and attorneys as necessary to accomplish its goals and will submit financial statements and an official record of all relevant information considered to the City Clerk. Redistricting Commissioners receive a per diem for their service and the Commissioners' term shall last until the districting proposal they approve is submitted to the State of Washington. 

Commission Structure

The Redistricting Commission consists of five members: 

  • Two Commissioners are appointed by the City Council, confirmed via a two-thirds vote of the Council. 
  • Two Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor. 
  • One Commissioner is appointed by the initial four members of the Commission, approved via a majority vote.

Commission Responsibilities

  • Appoint a Districting Master: After the five members of the Redistricting Commission have been appointed, they select a Districting Master. The Districting Master will draft the districting plan and have the qualified education, training and experience to do so.  
  • Conduct Open Public Meetings: All meetings of the Commission will be open to the public. 
  • Organize Public Forums: The Commission will organize and facilitate public forums to solicit community input from across the City, holding at least one public meeting in each existing City Council district (these meetings may be conducted virtually as provided for by applicable law and COVID-19 safety protocols). 
  • Develop and Release a Draft District Plan Proposal: By November 15, 2022 (or a later date as provided for by applicable law), the Commission will develop and make public a district plan proposal. The proposal will be approved by majority vote of the Commission. After the draft proposal is released, the Commission will take public comment. 
  • Approve a Final Districts Plan: After public comment, the Redistricting Commission will approve a final districts plan by majority vote. 

Rules for Redrawing Districts

District boundaries will be drawn in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws, including but not limited to the following rules: 

  • Produce compact and contiguous districts that are not gerrymandered. 
  • The population of the largest district shall not exceed the population of the smallest district by more than one percent.
  • The new City Council district boundaries will not be based on the residence of any person. 

When practical, new boundaries should follow:

  • Existing district boundaries 
  • Waterways and geographic boundaries 
  • Seattle communities and neighborhoods

Redistricting is the process of redrawing districts for each government body that uses district elections, including:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives
  • State Legislatures
  • County Boards of Supervisors
  • City Councils
  • School Boards
  • Special Districts (e.g., water or sewer districts)

Every 10 years, after the U.S. Census, districts are redrawn to ensure that each local, state and federal lawmaker represents the same number of people. In Seattle, the Redistricting Commission also draws new maps for City Council districts to make sure each district has about the same number of people.

In 2013, Seattle voters adopted an amendment (Resolution 31464) to the City of Seattle Charter that established the City's current system of district elections as well as a Redistricting Commission to be formed after each census to determine a districting plan. This same amendment mandates a five member Commission. Two Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor, two Commissioners are appointed by City Council, and a fifth Commissioner is appointed by the four appointed Commissioners by a majority vote, as well as the hiring of a Districting Master who is tasked to work with the Commission on creating data analysis and mapping after a a public comment period.

Redistricting matters because the drawing of district lines determines who represents you in elected office. Areas that are included - and excluded - from these districts impacts which communities will have a voice in selecting their representative. It also affects which communities will have influence with their elected officials. 

Communities and populations in Seattle change and grow over time. According to City of Seattle Charter Amendment of 2013, Seattle will redraw the boundaries of City Council districts every 10 years after the federal government publishes updated census information. Seattle redraws the boundaries of its City Council districts to ensure that each district represents an approximately equal number of residents. 

In 2013 Seattle voters adopted an amendment for a Redistricting Commission of Seattle Residents to be formed after each census to determine a redistricting plan. The City of Seattle Redistricting Commission is made of five Commissioners and a Districting Master. Two Commissioners are appointed by City Council, Two Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor, and the final Commissioner is appointed by the other four Redistricting Commissioners. 

The Commission then selects a Districting Master, who will be responsible for drawing new City Council district boundaries using mapping software and data analysis, after taking public comments into account. The Commission must draw the district lines following strict, nonpartisan rules to create districts with nearly equal populations that will allow for fair representation for all Seattleites.