Lawsuit claims Washington’s new redistricting maps discriminate against Latino voters

Jan 19, 2022, 1:46 PM | Updated: Jan 20, 2022, 7:19 am
The new legislative map drawn up by the state commission. (WA State Redistricting Commission)
(WA State Redistricting Commission)

A coalition of voting rights groups filed a lawsuit this week challenging a redistricting plan approved by the Washington Supreme Court in December of 2021.

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

Initially, the Washington State Redistricting Commission (WSRC) 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.

Legally, the missed deadline meant that the state Supreme Court would be responsible for completing the redistricting process. A December ruling issued by the court, 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.

Those maps have since drawn criticism from advocacy groups representing Latino voters, who have raised objections to the newly-drawn 15th Legislative District. Those groups eventually joined together to file a lawsuit in Western Washington’s U.S. District Court over those concerns.

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

“The Washington State Redistricting Commission’s proposed state legislative map dilutes the voting power of Latinos in the Yakima Valley and Pasco regions, denying them an equal opportunity to elect candidates of choice,” Campaign Legal Center Senior Director Mark Gaber said in a press release. “Federal and state courts have twice invalidated election systems that discriminate against Yakima Valley’s Latino voters. The Commission’s refusal to learn from these court decisions has necessitated this third lawsuit.”

The lawsuit asks the court to halt the implementation of the state’s redistricting maps, and “instead adopt a plan that includes a majority-Latino state legislative district in the Yakima Valley region that does not dilute the voting strength of Latino voters.”

The WSRC also faces a separate lawsuit filed by the Washington Coalition for Open Government, which alleges that the commission violated the state’s public meeting laws by engaging in “secret negotiations to draw and come to an agreement” on its redistricting maps.

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

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Lawsuit claims Washington’s new redistricting maps discriminate against Latino voters