The Washington State Redistricting Commission will hold a public outreach meeting Saturday to hear from residents of the 4th and 5th congressional districts.

The virtual meeting takes place from 1-3 p.m. Anyone seeking to comment must register online at redistricting.wa.gov. The meeting will also be broadcast in English and Spanish by tvw.org.

The five-member redistricting commission began meeting earlier this year. It’s charged with redrawing Washington’s legislative and congressional district boundaries, using the 2020 census population figures. The goal is to create districts that are nearly equal in population, so voters have roughly equal representation regardless of where they live.

The 4th and 5th congressional districts cover the eastern half of Washington. Both districts run north-south, from Canada to the Oregon border. The 4th District includes Yakima and the Tri-Cities area, while the 5th District includes Spokane and the southeastern corner of the state.

The official census reapportionment data won’t be released until mid-August, but preliminary estimates indicate both districts will need to add population. That could happen either by tweaking the existing boundaries, or through a wholesale redesign.

The redesign option received a lot of support during an earlier outreach meeting in May.

Several speakers encouraged the commission to ditch the north-south districts in favor of east-west trending districts that reflected existing cultural and economic alignments in the northern and southern tiers of the state.

For example, Yvette Joseph, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, noted that the tribal population is currently split between the 4th and 5th districts. That meant that only about half the tribe could vote for Joe Pakootas in 2016, when he challenged 5th District incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

The current district configuration “dilutes the strength of the Colville vote,” Joseph said.

Similarly, multiple speakers from Walla Walla County encouraged the commission to put Walla Walla in the same district as the Tri-Cities, because of their shared economic ties.

Right now the county is split between the 4th and 5th districts.

Once the 2020 reapportionment data is available, the redistricting commission will begin redrawing district boundaries. It has until Nov. 15 to complete the process. It takes at least three votes to approve any redistricting plan.

The commission website has archived videos from past meetings. It also outlines several methods by which people can comment on the process, including by mail, email or online.

The site has links to a public mapping tool as well, so people can create their own redistricting maps and submit them for consideration.

Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.