LOCAL NEWS

Post blown redistricting deadline, state commission blames ‘partisan performance’

Nov 18, 2021, 3:10 PM | Updated: Nov 19, 2021, 7:38 am
redistricting maps...
The state capitol building in Olympia, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

After a frantic, last-minute scramble to approve Washington state’s legislative and congressional district maps, individual representatives from the state’s redistricting commission have admitted that they failed to meet their transparency obligation to the public, and that partisan fracturing was the culprit responsible for the delay.

‘This is a complete joke’: Redistricting group fails to approve new map amid outcry over process

The commission was tasked with submitting its maps to the Legislature by Nov. 15. An “agreement” among the commissioners with equal representation between the political parties was reached Monday. However, they failed to include copies of the district and legislative maps. Public records of those maps are required by state law.

Several days past the deadline, that obligation was met with the maps released. However, due to the expiration of the deadline, the state Supreme Court will now be required to finalize that work by April of 2022.

“I personally did not feel that I lived up to the transparency that I expect of my government and [which] the people deserve,” Republican commissioner Paul Graves said in a press conference Nov. 18. “I didn’t like that. The only explanation I can give you is that we had the potential to reach agreement on these maps, which is a very important thing to me, so we chose to keep moving forward.”

Ultimately, however, the commission defends the maps that were submitted as reflective of a transparent process which resulted in the agreement reached on Monday.

“The agreement that we had was a framework that we could turn into maps,” Graves continued. “That took several hours to do, but that was what I wanted to at least get on the record saying that this framework that we were voting on was a framework that I agreed to.”

The continuity between that agreement— specifically, how to draw three key districts— and the actual production of the commission’s maps is difficult to determine as the commission indicated that only a “verbal agreement” was reached.

“With the caveat that I was very tired Monday night — it was chaotic and hazy — I’m not sure there was a specific document that reflected the final one,” Graves said. “There might be, but I can’t recall it or place it in my mind right now.”

“Ultimately, the legislative map, anyway, are final negotiations … in a couple of key legislative districts. I’ll go back and look for actual documents on it, but it may have been a spoken word offer for the very final steps that we needed to reach that agreement,” he said.

“I think we exchanged some map proposals,” added Democratic commissioner April Sims. “ There were some proposals in writing in those emails, but most of our negotiations were around a couple of very specific districts. … It came down to the 44th, the 47th, and the 28th. In the final hours, I don’t think there was anything in writing regarding our proposals back and forth, but more verbal negotiations.”

Graves defended the integrity of the maps as contiguous with the agreement that was reached within the commission, indicating that only those aforementioned “key” districts were verbally agreed upon in the final moments before the deadline.

“Over the course of months, we came to sort of tentative agreements on districts and reached the point where we’d say, ‘OK, maybe we can lock that one in and move on to the next one,’” Graves said.

He and Sims suggested that partisan conflict on how to draw certain districts was responsible for the delay, culminating in a last ditch verbal agreement before the deadline.

“At the very end of the day, again, right at the end, it was kind of particular partisan performance in three legislative districts,” he said. “Then, once … the commissioners and I reached tentative agreement on that, then that was the final piece for the rest of the map and for the rest of the agreement.”

The point of contention between the two parties was likely in part the result of how to draw up the Yakima Valley. Democrats contend that creating a majority-Latino state legislative district is necessary for compliance under the Voting Rights Act.

“Ultimately, what you have there in the 15th district is a majority Latino district: A majority of the citizens of voting age population, eligible voters, are Hispanic,” Graves noted.

“To do that, it … reaches out to a couple of different areas to get to those populations,” he added. “But while that was a big challenge, ultimately, we reached agreement on that particular district. It involved obviously a compromise among different mapping views and legal views, but ultimately I think it’s one that, from my point of view at least, complies with the law.”

Critics contend that the late maps constitute a violation of the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.

“The Redistricting Commission not only failed to meet the statutory deadline, but it also declined to interact with the public during public meetings, limited accessibility in critical moments, and grossly disregarded transparency expectations,” Yakima City Councilmember Dulce Gutierrez said in a Tuesday press release sent on behalf of a group known as Redistricting Justice for Washington.

Local News

(KIRO 7)...
KIRO 7 News Staff

35 Marysville teachers receive layoff notices after voters reject levy extensions

Thirty-five teachers in the Marysville School District received layoff notices last week, after voters rejected levy measures that would have funded 14-18% of the district’s overall budget.
1 day ago
...
Gwen Baumgardner

Car thefts are on the rise in the region

In Seattle, there have been 2,075 vehicle thefts already this year. Seattle police reported that approximately 86% of stolen cars are recovered.
2 days ago
Kirkland, WA (Getty Images)...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Tax hikes to join booming property values in East King County

Property values in select cities in East King County have skyrocketed, leading King County Assessor John Wilson to warn homeowners about noticeable increases in property taxes.
2 days ago
Pike Place...
MyNorthwest Staff

Enraged Pike Place motorist pleads not guilty to assault with a motor vehicle charges

A man arrested for an assault stemming from a Pike Place incident pleads not guilty in King County Superior Court.
3 days ago
tukwila...
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Prolific Seattle-area smash-and-grab ATM thieves formerly arrested for murder

60 robberies involving trucks driving into local stores to steal ATMs and cash registers may be solved with the arrest of two men at a Tukwila motel Friday morning.
3 days ago
schools...
Dalton Day

Rival to First Student exposes Seattle Schools’ fumbled bidding war

First Student's competition has accused Seattle Public Schools of “arbitrarily and improperly” awarding a district contract to First Student.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Post blown redistricting deadline, state commission blames ‘partisan performance’