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Port boundaries being rethought due to growth

Growth in South Kitsap County over the last 10 years is forcing the Port of Bremerton to shift its districting boundaries to compensate.

Since 1990, nearly 5,000 people have moved into the district, bringing the total to just over 80,000. The surprise came when the port discovered that the Port Orchard area had grown the most out of the three districts, surpassing even Bremerton’s growth.

“We were very stunned that this end of South Kitsap has grown so much,” said Port Commissioner Maryann Huntington.

The shuffle has moved districts 260, 263 and 266 out of Huntington’s district — District 2 — into Commissioner Bill Mahan’s district — District 3. Precincts 275 and 202, which were previously split between two districts are now entirely encompassed by one or the other. Mahan has absorbed the remainder of 275 and Huntington now has all of 202.

The Port Commission clerk Linda Blackwell said she worked for about a week to carve the new districts along existing precinct boundaries. The guidelines also require the districts to be as compact as possible and as nearly equal in population as possible. She used software handed out by the U.S. Census Bureau that had all the information for local districts burnt onto it.

“It was a very useful tool because I was able to use the precincts listed in the districts with their population numbers,” Blackwell said. “It was much easier than the last time I did this.” Blackwell added that it took about a month to do the re-districting last time, and that was with the county’s help.

Mahan, with 27,300 residents in his district, now has about 1,000 more constituents than Bremerton’s Commissioner Cheryl Kincer. Huntington falls in the middle with about 26,700. However, Huntington said the numbers aren’t really that significant at election time — at least not enough to make her worry.

“It’s just who campaigns the hardest,” she said. “We draw the lines to equal it as best as we can.”

Although Huntington is up for re-election this year — albeit unopposed — the next election the redistricting would affect is Kincer’s, which isn’t for another two years. Kincer’s district — District 1 — has grown in area, acquiring 19 of District 3’s precincts.

Typically, however, residents are not notified of the changes until election day. Huntington said that after the last re-districting, many people found out they lived in another district when they got their ballots and there were unfamiliar names on it. Some even called her up to confirm that she was still running for commissioner.

Others discovered the change when they went to file for an election bid and discovered that their district’s position wasn’t up for several years.

“To be truthful, people don’t pay a lot of attention to that sort of thing unless they’re politically-minded,” Huntington said.

The shift also resulted in a slight non-sequitur. Mahan, whose house is just west of Port Orchard, now lives right on Huntington’s doorstep, district-wise. The port staff started a joke that they had pulled some strings in order to keep Mahan from being re-districted right out of office.

Huntington, however, said there was no truth to the rumor.

“Where he lived was too populated for me to take over,” she said. “That was just our little joke. The numbers wouldn’t have worked out, anyway.”

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