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Rachel La Corte the Associated Press
Published: 22 December 2010

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Washington state will get a 10th congressional seat under 2010 Census figures released Tuesday that show the state's population grew by more than 14 percent in the last decade.

Oregon remains at five congressional seats. Washington was among eight states that gained a total of 12 congressional seats in the new census count. Ten states lost representatives.

The earliest someone can run for the new district in Washington state is 2012, and that's only after the location is determined by a bipartisan citizen commission next year.

``Around every political watercooler in the state of Washington right now, discussions are actively under way as every amateur politician is trying to speculate about where the new congressional district would be,'' said Nick Handy, the state's elections director.

Handy said the conventional wisdom is that the new seat will be somewhere in the Puget Sound region, possibly carving up the 3rd or 9th District and including the state capital of Olympia.

Handy notes that the bipartisan makeup of the redistricting commission makes it ``really hard to picture a political compromise that involves a district that has a heavy political makeup of one party.''

Washington's population grew by 14.1 percent since 2000, to 6,724,540. That works out to 830,419 additional residents over the decade.

Still, that's the lowest rate of growth for Washington since the 11.1 percent in the 1940 Census, which reflected the Great Depression years. The 2000 Census found Washington had grown 21.1 percent to 5,894,121 residents.

Oregon's population climbed 12 percent to 3,831,074 in the 2010 count. That's down from the 2000 rate of 20.4 percent, but better than the 7.9 percent in the previous decade. Oregon's population was 3,421,399 in 2000; the state gained 409,675 residents by 2010.

The 435 seats in the U.S. House are apportioned every 10 years among the 50 states based on population shifts. Washington last added another House seat after the 1990 Census. That seat, in the 9th Congressional District, is currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Smith.

The 8th District, held by Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, was picked up after the 1980 Census.

Democrats' majority in the state's congressional delegation dwindled to a 5-4 margin after Republican Jaime Herrera won the 3rd Congressional District in November, putting the open seat back in Republican hands after a dozen years.

State Republican chairman Luke Esser said the new 10th District ``gives us another opportunity to win a congressional seat in this state and we're very excited about that.''

Gov. Chris Gregoire lauded the new seat.

``At a critical time in our nation's history additional representation in our nation's Capitol is certainly welcome news,'' the Democratic governor said in a prepared statement.

Redistricting is required once every decade to redraw boundaries so political districts contain nearly identical populations.

Handy said that each district will have about 670,000 people.

``To carve out a new district in the middle of this area is going to impact most if not all of the other districts,'' he said.

In Washington state, the process is handled by the citizen Redistricting Commission. The commission, comprising two Democrats, two Republicans and a nonvoting chairman, was created by constitutional amendment nearly 20 years ago to take the time-consuming and intensely political process out of the hands of the Legislature and governor.

It takes at least three votes to approve the maps. The Legislature may make minor adjustments in the first month of the 2012 session, by two-thirds votes of both houses, but lawmakers and the governor have essentially no role in the process used since the 1991 redistricting, secretary of state spokesman David Ammons said.

AP writer George Tibbits contributed to this report from Seattle.

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