Washington Redistricting Commission fails to meet deadline; new maps to be decided by Supreme Court

After the November 15 deadline to submit redistricting maps to the legislature came and went, the job now goes to the Washington Supreme Court.

A 5-hour meeting of the Washington State Redistricting Commission, much of which was spent behind closed doors without a public opportunity to view discussion, ended with the commission not able to finalize their work.

According to a statement from the commission, they were able to come to a consensus on new district maps, but it was after their 11:59pm on November 15 deadline.

Only one member signed the final agreement just prior to the deadline, while the other three were less than 5 seconds into November 16.

“Last night, after substantial work marked by mutual respect and dedication to the important task, the four voting commissioners on the state redistricting commission were unable to adopt a districting plan by the midnight deadline.

The late release of the 2020 census data combined with technical challenges hampered the commission’s work considerably.”

This is the first time the panel has failed to finish its work since the state adopted a constitutional amendment giving redistricting authority to a bipartisan commission after the 1990 census.

Since the commission missed their deadline, the state Supreme Court is now in charge of drawing up new maps. 

“Pursuant to RCW 44.05.100, the Supreme Court now has jurisdiction to adopt a districting plan. The commissioners have every faith that the Supreme Court will draw maps that are fair and worthy of the people of Washington.”

In a Tuesday statement, the commission stated that they did send a copy of their final mapping plan along with a transmittal letter and resolution to the Supreme Court.

“These maps were created in a bipartisan process with unprecedented public input and resulted in the doubling of minority-majority districts, greater consolidation of cities, counties and communities of interest, and full consideration of the eight Tribes with which the commission consulted,” Augustine said. “The WSRC staff and I are at the disposal of the court for anything they may require as it assumes responsibility for this important task.”

After failing to submit a final mapping plan by the statutory deadline, the commission published the state legislative and congressional district mapping plan that won consensus among the voting members.

“While we acknowledge we missed the deadline for our maps to be considered by the Legislature, we see no reason why the Court can’t do so,” said Commission Chair Sarah Augustine. “These maps reflect the input of the thousands of people who took part in the process with us. It would be a shame to see these maps go unconsidered simply because the clock struck 12.”

Looking at the proposed map, it appears that the 24th Legislative District was adjusted to move Montesano into the northern district, while moving parts of East County into the 19th Legislative District.

Much of the conversation over the previous meetings of the commission related to majority-minority districts near Yakima and Seattle. While the Democrat members of the commission were pushing to create these districts, the Republican commissioners were more hesitant.

If the commission had met its deadline, the legislature would have had the next thirty days during any regular or special session to amend the commission’s plan. 

Any plan approved by the court is final, with no opportunity for adjustments from the state legislature, and will constitute the districting for both legislative and congressional elections, beginning with the 2022 election.

The state Supreme Court is now in charge of drawing up new maps by April 30, 2022.

This means if any elected Legislative or Congressional officials currently in-office may not know if they sit in the same district until just weeks before Filing Week to file for office in May.

“Under the leadership of the most diverse Commission ever appointed, staff executed a public outreach campaign to solicit the people for their input into the mapping process and its outcomes. Between public commentary at 17 public outreach meetings and 22 business meetings, more than 400 state residents delivered live public testimony about maps or about the Commission’s processes.

Commissioners received more than 2,750 comments on their draft maps or on the old maps, and more than 3,000 sent an email, commented through the website form, mailed a letter, or left a voicemail. Finally, utilizing a mapping tool made available to the public on the Commission’s website, 1,300 maps were created, of which 12 were formally submitted as third-party maps.

This level of public involvement was historic, and the WSRC thanks all those who took the time and energy to engage with redistricting process. The public’s contribution to this process brought great value and helped guide much of the final plan””