Pierce County Districting

Letter to Pierce County Districting Chair from Shawn Bunney, Former Elected Pierce County Councilmember

Honorable Frank Cuthbertson – Chair, Pierce County Districting Committee
December 3, 2021


Dear Judge Cuthbertson,
I write to you today as a concerned citizen of Pierce County as well as a former elected Pierce
County Councilmember.
As the appointed chair of the Pierce County Districting Committee, the citizens of Pierce County
are depending on you to ensure the districting process is fair and to exercise due diligence to
get to the bottom of appearance of fairness issues relating to the Districting Master’s work.
Having attended the Districting Committee meeting on November 30th, I was shocked by the
Tacoma centric bias of the Districting Master and by the tenor of the deliberations.
There are many examples of political bias and Tacoma centric thinking evident in the maps but
perhaps the most glaring is the Districting Master’s insistence that the only real opportunity to
balance the population in District 1 was to slice Graham in half on his “final map”. More
offensive still is his insistence that he “would not change” this map, regardless of the results of
public comment on his new map.
If I understand the Districting Master’s logic, to accommodate Tacoma’s need to consolidate
power in three unified Tacoma districts, that the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd districts had to undergo
substantial changes. Substantial changes that weakened the three Republican districts. Since
Tacoma’s consolidation needs came first, by the time you get south to Graham, the only
practical way to make it work according to the Districting Master is to slice Graham in half.
In Pierce County, the bias against people living in rural communities has been going on for
years and includes such acts as forcing the County landfill on Graham, focusing transportation
dollars on Tacoma’s needs and dropping the ball on the Cross-Base highway. This is the same
urban bias behind the decision to split Graham in two without giving residents an opportunity
to respond.
Steve Garrett was the Districting Master in 2011 and is also our Districting Master today. In
2011, the need to fix the “egregious bifurcation of Graham” was front and center. (see
https://themountainnewswa.net/2011/06/10/county-re-districting-bodes-well-for-grahamfrederickson-and-spanaway/) In light of the 2011 process, the idea that Mr. Garrett did not
know he was slicing Graham in half doesn’t pass the straight face test.
It is rumored that Mr. Garrett has provided mapping services to the Washington State
Democratic Party for use in their redistricting processes. If true, that fact alone should disqualify
Mr. Garrett. Adding up all of the anomalies and transparency issues, you have a huge
appearance of fairness problem. Finally, the results speak for themselves since 95 percent of
the changes Mr. Garrett implemented shave points to the Democratic Party in swing districts or
create chaos in Republican Districts. Results that are highly unlikely if you didn’t know the R/D
vote counts in the Precincts.
Judge Cuthbertson, perform due diligence to rejoin Graham into a single district. If necessary,
consider starting over with a new Districting Master as Spokane County did to get a fair result
for the people of Pierce County.
Thank you for considering my comments.
Shawn Bunney