These two things are actually connected in a very interesting way. The reason we're not celebrating the 135th anniversary of Washington is the same reason voter turnout is down to historic levels this year in Washington.
It was political division and apathy that kept Washington out of the union in the late 1870s, ten years before their successful 1889 effort.
Robert Fricken in Washington Territory:
Washington Territory was divided, rather than united, upon the question of statehood. Longtime, often bitter, points of contention remained paramount, setting westerners against easterners, Republicans against Democrats, and Portland influence against the challenge of Puget Sound.Fricken is the bomb, by the way. Everyone should read every one of his books.
Washington remained a state in uretero for so long, because it wasn't a single cogent state. As Fricken points out, the Puget Sound was an economic colony of San Francisco and Eastern Washington was controlled by the Willamette. Also, decades and decades of rule by the east compounded on themselves, and the political culture that would grow with the promise of self rule never flourished.
Voter participation also dropped off significantly from areas that supported statehood at the time (Puget Sound) to places where it wasn't supported (east of the mountains). In places where there was little engagement for the goal, voters overall failed to answer the question.
It wasn't until the 1880s when Washington's population went from 75,000 to over 300,000 did the question come up again. Also, because of a rail connection through Washington to the rest of the country, the territory was at last united.
That 1870s apathy towards statehood, driven by disunion and apathy, is the same sort of thing we face today.
While we lacked a railroad to throw off the shackles of Portland and San Francisco, today we shackle ourselves away from each other. Our redisticting process, at both the legislative and Congressional level, has shifted partisans into seperate districts. If we ask voters to vote in races that don't matter, they won't vote.
Jim Bruner in the Seattle Times back in 2012:
In an interview, Milem said the commission's priority of protecting incumbents was evident in the new maps, as incumbents of both parties got safer seats.
Milem is correct on that point.
Just look U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert's 8th Congressional District. Previously a suburban swing district, the 8th was redrawn by the commission to become solidly Republican. The new district lost its Bellevue and Mercer Island portions and now crosses the Cascades to pick up Wenatchee and Ellensburg.
Similarly, the 2nd and 9th Districts were redrawn to be safer for their Democratic incumbents, Rick Larsen and Adam Smith.Sure, we're also sorting ourselves out in a larger sesnse. But, in the least, creating as interesting and compelling political boundaries in the first place would help.
"We've lost electoral competition in those districts as a result of the plan," said Milem.
That holds true for many state legislative districts too. Milem says partisan considerations trumped the goal of drawing logical district boundaries, leading to some strange contortions.
For example, Milem describes the shape of the 18th legislative district near Vancouver as "one arm short of a swastika."
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