Supreme Court upholds state redistricting plan
May 8, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
The state Supreme Court has authorized use of the redrawn political boundaries for upcoming elections, even as a citizen challenge to the Washington State Redistricting Commission’s maps continues to proceed.
The bipartisan commission responsible for reshaping the districts spent 2011 redrawing legislative and congressional districts. State legislators then made minor modifications and the plan entered into effect Feb. 7.
Vancouver resident John Milem filed a challenge against the redistricting plan Feb. 8. The longtime redistricting observer contended the reshaped maps granted too much power to Western Washington counties.
Commissioners divided Issaquah between the 5th and 41st legislative districts to determine representation in Olympia, and kept the city in a reshaped 8th Congressional District for federal representation.
The state Attorney General’s Office filed the urgent request to the Supreme Court shortly after Milem filed the challenge.
Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, writing for a unanimous court, said the tight calendar influenced the decision. Counties must establish redrawn voting precincts to fit into the reshaped boundaries.
“In view of the approaching deadlines for the 2012 elections and the need for adequate time to perfect the case and consider briefs and arguments of the parties on the merits of Mr. Milem’s petition, the court unanimously agreed” for the adopted plan to apply in the upcoming elections, she continued.
The top elections official in the state applauded the Supreme Court decision.
“This is very good news,” Secretary of State Sam Reed said. “Our 2012 elections season is barreling down on us, with filing week beginning May 14 and top two primary ballots going in the mail in July. The counties are working very hard to meet the deadlines for redistricting voting precincts and redrawing a number of boundaries to comply with population shifts and the work of the commission.”
The bipartisan redistricting commission included voting members — Democrats Tim Ceis, a former Seattle deputy mayor; Dean Foster, a former chief clerk for the state House of Representatives; and Republicans Slade Gorton, a former U.S. senator, and Tom Huff, a former state budget chairman — and a nonvoting chairwoman, Lura Powell, former director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Washington voters established the Washington State Redistricting Commission in 1983 to establish voting boundaries through a bipartisan process.
Commissioners assembled the districts using data from the 2010 Census. Washington’s population growth in the past decade means the state is poised to add a 10th seat in the House of Representatives after the November election.