Washington Redistricting

FILE - A person walks near the Legislative Building, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

The Washington State Redistricting Commission adopted the final report for its proposed redistricting plan Wednesday, even as it acknowledged that the work is now out of its hands.

The five-member commission failed to meet the Nov. 15 deadline for redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative district boundaries. Consequently, the Washington Supreme Court will have to finish the job.

Nevertheless, the commission continues to encourage the court to accept its final redistricting proposal, which according to Commission Chairwoman Sarah Augustine was completed less than a half-hour after the Nov. 15 midnight deadline.

The plan divides the state into 10 congressional and 49 legislative districts, using the 2020 census figures. The total population variance between the largest and smallest congressional district was just 48 people, compared to 157 for the legislative districts.

If the Supreme Court accepts the commission’s proposal, the new district boundaries in eastern Washington would remain similar to what they are today.

For example, the 5th Congressional District currently includes Asotin, Garfield, Whitman, Spokane, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Ferry, Lincoln and Columbia counties, along with about half of Walla Walla County.

The new district would expand slightly, picking up the remainder of Walla Walla County and adding most of Adams County and part of Franklin County, excluding the Pasco area.

The proposed district has a population of 770,526, which is just two shy of the “ideal” number that divides the state into 10 exactly equal districts.

The 9th Legislative District, by contrast, would increase in size but shrink in population.

The district currently includes Asotin, Garfield, Whitman and Adams counties, as well as a portion of Spokane County and most of Franklin County.

The proposed new district would add all of Columbia and Lincoln counties. It would pick up the entire southern half of Spokane County, but would lose a portion of Adams County, including all of the area around Othello. It would also lose a strip along the western edge of Franklin County, including all of the Pasco area.

The population of the new district would be 157,250, or one short of the ideal.

According to Article II, Section 43 of the Washington Constitution, if the redistricting commission fails to meet the deadline for approving new congressional and legislative districts, the Supreme Court has until April 30 to finish the job.

Whenever a new redistricting plan is approved, the districts will be in place for the next 10 years, beginning with the 2022 primary election.

Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.