YAKIMA — A redistricting map splits the Yakima County Commission boundaries into large northern and southern rural districts with a third district encompassing most of the city of Yakima.
Released last week, the redistricting map is part of a settlement between the county and immigrant rights group OneAmerica over alleged Voting Rights Act violations.
OneAmerica sued the county in July 2020, alleging its voting system disenfranchises Latino voters, who now account for a majority of the county’s population. Under the settlement, the county was required to redraw district boundaries, creating one with a Latino majority, and hold district-based elections in primary and general elections. At-large candidacy has been eliminated.
The settlement also forces the election of all three commission seats in 2022, when the redistricting map takes effect.
The commissioners are Amanda McKinney, District 1; Ron Anderson, District 2; and LaDon Linde, District 3 — all Republicans. Linde’s seat was up for election this year and the most recent preliminary results show him ahead of challenger Autumn Torres.
Yakima County Auditor Charles Ross said he’s curious how voter participation will compare in each district under the new map.
“It will be interesting to see,” he said. “But when you look at it, I think they did a pretty good job balancing the districts.”
The new districts divide the county in half with an island-shaped district in the middle encompassing most of the city of Yakima.
Under the new map, District 1 has an overall population of 88,124 and covers East Valley through West Valley and reaches from the Ahtanum Ridge north to the county line. District 2, with an overall population of 84,372, is carved out in the middle with its boundaries around much of Yakima proper.
District 3 has an overall population of 84,232 and covers everything below the Ahtanum Ridge through the Lower Valley.
Latinos hold an overwhelming majority in District 3, accounting for 72.3% of the population. Latinos make up 55.6% of the overall population in District 2, and 25.2% in District 1, according to settlement figures.
Whites hold a majority in District 1, accounting for 67% of the overall population. Whites make up 36.8% of the overall population in District 2, and 16% in District 3, according to settlement figures.
Demographers representing the county and OneAmerica devised the map based on the 2020 Census.
Commission candidates presently run a district-based campaign in primary elections, meaning they are only selected by voters in their respective districts.
That changes in the general elections, where candidates become at-large and are selected by voters countywide.
This proved a game-changer in Debra Manjarrez’s 2016 run for a seat on the commission. She grabbed 36% of votes in a four-way primary compared to Anderson’s 30%. Manjarrez lost in the general election, where Anderson captured 51% of votes countywide compared to her 48%.
Manjarrez, a Republican, doesn’t blame the system. The Wapato resident said she could have campaigned harder in Yakima and the Upper Valley to garner more countywide support.
”I didn’t do enough to get enough exposure,” she said. “I lived in the Lower Valley all my life.”
Manjarrez said she does agree with eliminating at-large candidacies on the commission.
So does Auditor Ross.
”I’ve never felt that Yakima County commissioners purposely focused on one area of the county over the other,” he said. “I just think this makes a commissioner much more accountable to the voters of their districts.”