Take Action to Keep Our Communities Connected!


This call to action is a once in a ten year opportunity. The subject is redistricting, which is the process of redrawing the lines of our Legislative and Congressional districts based on the populations from the recent census.  We need to make sure that Okanogan County is included in a Legislative District (LD) that honors our regional relationship with neighboring counties. We also need to ensure that our community is kept together with other connected communities in our Congressional District (CD).

The proposed LD maps prepared by each of the four members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission released on September 21 split Okanogan County between LD 12 and LD 7, and some of the proposed options remove us from LD 12 almost entirely. Our strong preference is to keep our county entirely in LD 12 in order to maintain the connection with North Central Washington that has served us so well for decades.

The proposed CD maps released on September 28, are largely similar, but one map expands the 4th district to the northeast corner of the state along with communities very disconnected from ours. We recommend keeping a similar makeup of the current 4th CD that keeps us together with other connected communities to the south

We only have a short time to submit comments on the proposed maps. We recommend our comments focus on Okanogan County and the need to keep our connection with the rest of North Central Washington. 

One of the key requirements of redistricting is to avoid breaking apart “areas recognized as communities of interest".

  • A “community of interest” is defined by FairVote as a “group of people in a geographical area, such as a specific region or neighborhood, who have common political, social or economic interests.”
  • The Washington Constitution requires that state legislative districts “should be contiguous, compact, and convenient, and follow natural, geographic, artificial, or political subdivision boundaries.”

This is intended, to the extent possible, to minimize the number of counties and municipalities divided into more than one district. We need to make it clear that we consider North Central Washington a community of interest, defined as Okanogan, Chelan and Douglas counties.

Here are some of the ways we are closely connected to the greater Wenatchee/Chelan area:

  • We share a major watershed. (The Columbia River and tributaries). Watersheds are at the center of water management, which is an increasingly important issue overseen by the State. We need our LD representatives to advocate for the entire watershed, not just part of it.
  • We share an educational system (Wenatchee Valley College main campus is in Wenatchee, with a branch in Omak)
  • The Confluence hospital system with satellite clinics connects us closely. When Okanogan County residents need emergency care or more sophisticated treatments and surgeries, most of us go to Wenatchee. 
  • The North Central Accountable Community of Health (NCACH) is a key partner in our regional health care system and includes Okanogan, Chelan and Douglas counties.
  • We share a library system. The NCW Library system has several branches in our county and they are heavily used and much loved.
  • The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest runs from the Canadian border all the way to the Wenatchee area, connecting our counties recreationally and economically. The counties to the east of us are under completely different National Forest management. 
  • We are an agricultural county and our products much more closely align with the other NCW counties. Our biggest crop by far is tree fruit, we share this in common with Chelan and Douglas counties.  In all three counties, tree fruit is the largest crop by orders of magnitude.  The counties to the east of us produce very little tree fruit.
  • The Pangborn Airport in East Wenatchee is the closest regional airport used by our residents.
  • Most state and federal offices for services heavily used by Okanogan County residents are located in Wenatchee. These include DSHS, Social Security, USDA rural development and regional programs.
  • One of the major charitable organizations that distributes funds to many non-profits doing essential work in our county is the Community Foundation of North Central WA, located in Wenatchee.
  • We must maintain our close connection with Chelan and Douglas counties to build our resiliency to the changing climate. Many similar climate change impacts on Okanogan County are also experienced by Chelan and Douglas counties.
  • Highway 97 to Wenatchee is the only reliable year-round connection from our county to the outside world. It is heavily used to connect Okanogan County to all the services and organizations mentioned in this list. Residents of Okanogan County travel frequently to the Wenatchee and Chelan areas for work, shopping and entertainment. Douglas and north Chelan County have this in common with us. All other major routes to and from these areas are severely impacted in the winter and are often inaccessible. The counties east of us use a different north south route.

Use the points above that resonate with you to provide comment on both the LD and CD maps. Tell your story that illustrates your regional connections: a job that connects you to a resource in Wenatchee, an illness treated in Wenatchee, visiting grandchildren and attending school events in Chelan.

It is critical that we submit as many comments as possible by Tuesday, October 5th.  You can do that here. The commissioners will review these comments before making their final maps. If the commissioners cannot agree on a map, the process then goes to the State Supreme Court, which will rely heavily on the public comments when making their decision. Our voices will be stronger shared with our neighbors to our south. Please take a few minutes to jot down your comments on both the legislative and congressional district maps, using the points listed above as you like, and submit them using this link: https://www.redistricting.wa.gov/submit-public-testimony.

It will also be very helpful if you send them directly to the four appointed commissioners:

April Sims [email protected]

Brady Walkinshaw  [email protected]

Joe Fain [email protected]

Paul Graves [email protected]

The Commission will be holding special statewide meetings in October—one for proposed Legislative Districts on October 5, and one for Congressional Districts on October 9. We invite you to attend, offer 30 second testimony, and make your voice heard!