It’s official – the City of Wenatchee will elect council members by districts starting in 2019. The Wenatchee city council voted 6-1 last night to move to five districts with two at-large positions for the seven seats on the council. The decision comes after about three years of study into the issue of representation by a committee convened by the council. Some city officials, including Mayor Frank Kuntz, felt the timeline was pushed up after the passage of the Washington State Voting Rights Act earlier this year.
Before approving the ordinance last night, almost all council members expressed some reservation with districted voting. Councilmember Jim Bailey said in all his years on the council this was the hardest decision he’s had to make. Councilmember Keith Huffaker said he thinks the plan is a good compromise between those who do and don’t want voting districts. Councilmember Linda Herald said the comments she’s read and heard are in support of the move. Councilmember Mark Kulaas said the ultimate goal is to increase voter turnout and civic participation. Councilmember Ruth Esparza was the lone dissenting vote. She said she’s worried about dividing the citizenry and would prefer a plan to ease into districting voting.
City staff will now begin crafting the implementation plan, including using voter population and demographics to draw the five districts. Another plan called for seven districts, but the council decided five with two at-large positions made more sense for a city the size of Wenatchee.
The voting districts will be in place for the general election in November 2019.