Board of Directors Election System
Historically, the Pasco School District Board of Directors has been made up of five seats where voting was "at-large" (the entire district) in the primary and general election. The seats have been identified by position number, but have never been separated into geographical districts.
Over time, and especially over the last 20 years, the population living in the Pasco School District boundary has grown. In 2001, about 11,000 students were enrolled, compared to 2021 where we now welcome over 18,000 students. Along with this growth, community demographics have changed. According to U.S. Census data, approximately 20% of the population in 1980 was of Latino heritage; in 2020, that number was 56% percent.
In the summer of 2017, a community member addressed the school district’s changing demographics during public comments at a school board meeting. They noted that the demographic make-up of the school board had not been representative of the school district’s changing demographics over the last several election cycles. At that time, no elected school board members identified as Latino and none lived east of Road 36. These comments led to a request by the Board of Directors to begin studying these issues.
During the 2017-2018 school year, the board studied the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act, legislative activity at the state level to pass a Washington Voting Rights Act, and litigation in the City of Yakima and the City of Pasco that resulted in changes to those cities’ at-large election systems. The board learned about ways in which at-large election systems can have the effect of diluting the votes of community population groups. The board also learned that without a change to state law, there was no process available at that time that allowed Washington school districts to proactively change an at-large election system to a district-based election system.
The Washington Voting Rights Act, RCW Ch. 29A.92, was passed by the Legislature and took effect on June 7, 2018. The new law provided a method for government subdivisions, including school districts, to voluntarily adopt changes to their election systems. With this change, the Board of Directors began to study how the school district could voluntarily comply with the new law, including, including timelines for holding new elections. Although the board’s work was paused by the operational impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the board took action on February 9, 2021, directing staff to move forward with a community engagement process that would result in board approval of a new election system and new election for all Pasco School District board positions in the November 2022 General Election.
Development of a New District-Based Election System
Following board action on February 9, 2021, district staff engaged an expert demographer to assist with the development of director district boundaries. The work was initially based on the 2010 Census data, which was the only data available at that time. However, the necessary 2020 Census data was released by the U.S. Census Bureau in August 2020. The board considered whether it would be necessary to delay the redistricting by one year so that the updated Census data could be used. It was determined that there would be sufficient time to engage the community and update the redistricting scenarios using the 2020 Census data. Recognizing that redistricting was a high priority for the community, the Board decided the project would not be delayed.
Between October 2021 and December 2021, district staff held several community meetings and public presentations to share information and gather community feedback. In addition, a community survey was used to gather community feedback on potential election systems that would create either 3 director districts, 4 director districts, or 5 director districts. The board used the feedback to establish its guiding principles for development of the final electoral map that was presented for a public hearing and board action.
The guiding principles established by the board for the development of the district-based election system were the following:
- The new election system must comply with the Washington Voting Rights Act. Toward this goal, the plan should have at least 2 director districts with a majority Latino voting age population.
- The plan should use existing Franklin County election precincts to the extent possible. However, election precincts could be split if it would allow for more natural boundaries and compliance with the law.
- Residence of incumbent board members is not considered.
- The plan must be based on 2020 Census data.
Through this process, using the guiding principles established by the Board of Directors, a public hearing was held on January 4, 2022 on a proposed 4-district plan. The proposed plan divided the school district into 4 geographic areas (Director Districts), and maintained one at-large director position. The opportunity to have input through the public hearing was advertised in multiple languages through newspapers, radio, online, and on social media channels.
On January 11, 2022, the Board of Directors unanimously approved Resolution 1012 adopting a district-based election system plan. The plan established 4 geographic areas as director districts and 1 at-large position. Adoption of the plan means in future elections, 4 positions will be elected by the voters in the geographic area where the candidate resides and 1 position will be elected by all voters in the school district.
November 2022 General Election
Adoption of the new election system plan means that new elections for all 5 seats on the Board of Directors will be held in November 2022. On April 17, 2022, the board established terms for each position for the November 2022 election and adopted the legal descriptions of each director district. The terms will be staggered between the positions, maintaining the election cycle previously established for board positions. After the November 2022 election, all board elections will be held in odd-numbered years as required by law.
Position Term in 2022 Next Election for a 4-Year Term
Pos. 1 1 Year November 2023
Pos. 2 1 Year November 2023
Pos. 3 3 Year November 2025
Pos. 4 3 Year November 2025
Pos. 5 (At-Large) 3 Year November 2025
For more information, contact the District Office at 509-546-2880.