State Supreme Court allows late-arriving redistricting maps to move forward

Dec 3, 2021, 9:48 AM | Updated: 9:54 am
Republicans, redistricting...
Aerial view from a drone of the Washington State Capitol in Olympia, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court of Washington will allow new legislative and congressional maps submitted late by the state’s redistricting commission to move forward.

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

Initially, the Washington State Redistricting Commission (WSRC) had failed to meet its mandated deadline for approving and transmitting new maps. In a sworn statement to the state Supreme Court, the commission’s chair detailed how that was driven by an 11th-hour vote to approve the map seconds before a midnight deadline, followed by a series of technical glitches that delayed the delivery of the maps to the state Legislature.

Because of that, staff members were unable to upload the finalized congressional and legislative maps until the following night around 8:30 p.m.

In a subsequent letter from the WSRC to the state Supreme Court, commissioners explained how they “did not fully comprehend the time and complexity required to formalize the agreement,” while urging the court to consider implementing the late-arriving map regardless. Legally, the missed deadline had meant that the Washington Supreme Court was responsible for completing the redistricting process.

New details reveal how last-second vote, technical glitches fueled missed redistricting deadline

A ruling issued by the court on Friday, though, described how this ultimately was “not a situation in which the Supreme Court must step in,” noting that technically speaking, the missed deadline was not the result of a failure to agree to new redistricting maps within the allotted time period.

As a result, the court will not evaluate or “render any opinion” on the maps agreed to by the commission, instead allowing them to move forward as is.

The maps themselves have garnered criticism since they were published, with UCLA’s Voting Rights Project claiming that while they are “satisfactory,” there is “a clear vote dilution” for Hispanic residents in the Yakima region.

The Northwest Progressive Institute cited further concerns over the process that led to the approval of the maps in a statement issued shortly after the state court’s Friday ruling.

“It was clear to anyone who watched the Commission’s chaotic, disorganized meeting on November 15th that it did not finish its work by the deadline,” NPI Executive Director Andrew Villaneuve said. “Commissioners took a vote on maps that no one had seen, not even themselves, and then promptly congratulated themselves on having done a great job before concluding the following morning that they hadn’t finished on time.”

“A framework is not a set of maps. An informal agreement is not a set of maps,” he continued. “There was no opportunity for public comment or review before votes were taken on November 15th to adopt the cartographic equivalent of vaporware. The Supreme Court had an opportunity here to rectify this wrong, and make a good ten year decision for our state, and sadly, it has declined to do so.”

You can see the WSRC’s legislative and congressional maps at this link.

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State Supreme Court allows late-arriving redistricting maps to move forward