Washington panel fails to draw new political maps, job goes to court

By AP staff (AP)
SEATTLE Nov. 16, 2021 7:56 p.m. Updated: Nov. 16, 2021 11:30 p.m.

Washington’s redistricting commission failed to meet its deadline and on Tuesday kicked the job of creating new political maps to the state Supreme Court.

The bipartisan commission had a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Monday to approve new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts following the 2020 census.


“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 commission said in a statement.

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

The Washington statehouse building in Olympia, Washington.

File photo of the Washington statehouse building in Olympia, Washington.


Under state law the Washington Supreme Court will take over the job of drawing new political district maps.


Washington’s 2021 commission consists of four voting members — two Democrats and two Republicans — appointed by legislative caucus leaders. The Democratic appointees were former legislator Brady Piñero Walkinshaw and state labor-council leader April Sims; Republican commissioners were former state legislators Joe Fain and Paul Graves.

By law, at least three of the four had to agree on new political maps by Nov. 15. If they failed, the mapmaking duties would be handed to the state Supreme Court, which would have until April 30 to draw the new maps.

That hasn’t happened since the state adopted a constitutional amendment handing redistricting authority to a bipartisan commission after the 1990 census.

The new maps for the state’s 10 U.S. House districts and 49 state legislative districts will be in place for the next decade, starting with the 2022 midterm elections. The state did not gain a new U.S. House seat after the 2020 census, as it had done after the 2010 population count.

After going into a scheduled public meeting via Zoom at 7 p.m. Monday, the commissioners went into closed-door caucuses, with staff or commissioners appearing on video every half-hour to say the private talks were ongoing.

The non-public discussions drew criticism.

“If a local government did anything like this the Legislature would spend months scolding every city and county across the state for months. This is a complete joke,” said Pierce County Council Chair Derek Young in a tweet.

Correction: Washington state did not gain an additional seat in the U.S. Congress after the 2020 Census results were certified. An earlier version of this story was incorrect.


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