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McDowell's district shrinks

Island County Commissioner Mac McDowell will have a little less land in his territory once the commissioners adopt a redistricting plan based on the 2000 Census.

The county is divided into three commissioner districts. McDowell represents District 2, the Oak Harbor area, which since 1990 has had less population growth than the other two districts.

"We"ll whack a little bit off Oak Harbor and push it into Mike Sheltonis district," said Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair on Monday, as she explained upcoming changes in the districts.

Shelton represents District 1, which starts at South Whidbey and ends at San de Fuca. Under the proposed plan, that Penn Cove precinct would be moved from McDowell's area, District 2, to Shelton's, which is District 1.

McDowell would also lose some territory on the other end of his district. The Polnell precinct on North Whidbey would be shifted to District 3, which is represented by Camano Island resident Bill Thorn.

The law behind the redistricting effort requires that each district be nearly the same in population to assure each person's vote has equal weight in the election.

A public hearing on the proposed redistricting ordinance is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 3 at 11 a.m. in the Island County Courthouse Annex basement meeting room in Coupeville.

The redistricting plan would also create two new precincts to further balance the population.

The current West View and Hastie Lake precincts would be divided in half and two additional precincts, Fort Nugent and West Beach, created. The new precincts would be part of McDowell's district, while the downsized West View and Hastie Lake precincts would move to Shelton's area.

As a result of the changes, the three districts would be about equal in population. With the changes the population by district would be:

District 1: 23,829

District 2: 23,757

District 3: 23,972.

Asked about the political ramifications of the changes, Sinclair replied, "Just about nothing."

Redistricting can be a politically volatile subject if precincts heavily dominated by one political party are placed into another district, but that apparently isn't an issue this year. "Nobody has expressed any concern or interest," Sinclair said.

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