Washington redistricting commission admits it failed to meet deadline

<p><p>OLYMPIA — Washington’s redistricting commission failed to approve new legislative and congressional maps by the statutory deadline. </p></p><p><p>It is now up to the state Supreme Court to redraw boundaries.</p></p><p><p>The commission, made up of two Republican appointees and two Democratic appointees, had until 11:59 p.m. Monday to approve both of the maps, which will be in effect for the next 10 years. After hours of private meetings late Monday, the commission seemingly approved new maps, although none had been seen by the public at that point. </p></p><p><p>This is the first time since the commission was created for the 1991 redistricting that it has failed to reach the deadline.</p></p><p><p>“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,” a statement from the commission read. </p></p><p><p>The statement points to the late release of 2020 Census data and technical challenges during Monday’s meeting as “hampering the commission’s work considerably.”</p></p><p><p>According to state law, if the commission fails to approve and submit a plan within the time limit, the supreme court shall adopt a plan by April 30, 2022. It will be in effect for the next election that year. </p></p><p><p>The supreme court does not have to follow what the commission already started, but as the commission seemed close to final maps late Monday, the court may just pick up where they left off. </p></p><p><p>The new maps for the 10 U.S. House districts and 49 state legislative districts will be in place for a decade. </p></p><p><p>As Monday’s deadline drew closer, commissioners seemed to still have plenty of work left to do. Within the last hour, Republican appointee Joe Fain was still working to decide where Mercer Island should be placed in the final congressional maps. With less than 30 minutes before the deadline, Democratic appointee April Sims said the commission “might be able to take a vote” Monday night. </p></p><p><p>With even 20 minutes to spare, commissioners kept saying they “were working toward an agreement.” </p></p><p><p>After another private caucus meeting, commissioners came back together in public with less than 5 minutes to spare for a hasty vote on final maps and quickly ended the meeting afterward. </p></p><p><p>What exactly was in those maps and how much of it was done on time still remains unknown by the public Tuesday morning. </p></p><p><p>Before the vote, chair Sarah Augustine said final maps passed by the commission would be uploaded <a href=”https://www.redistricting.wa.gov/” target=”_blank”>on their website</a> “before dawn,” but as of Tuesday morning, no maps were available. The commission also cancelled a press conference where they were expected to answer questions post-deadline. </p></p><p><p>Last week, commissioners <a href=”https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/nov/13/as-redistricting-deadline-nears-commissioners-work/” target=”_blank”>were fairly confident they could reach a deal by midnight but hinted there was still disagreement.</a> Due to Census data being released late because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the deadline moving up a month this year, commissioners had even less time than normal to negotiate final maps.</p></p><p><p>When discussing the congressional maps, Democratic appointee Brady Piñero Walkinshaw said the fourth and the fifth district will continue to run north and south in Eastern Washington as they have in the past, but exact boundaries were not available for the public at the time of the vote. </p></p><p><p>Walkinshaw said the approved congressional map  “advances a number of priorities and keeps a number of communities together.”</p></p><p><p>For legislative maps, Republican appointee Paul Graves said the maps worked to keep communities together but add new competitive districts. </p></p><p><p>Each commissioner has different priorities for the maps. The two Republican appointees, Fain and Graves, had prioritized creating more competitive districts across the state, which they said would encourage more political participation. The two Democratic appointees, Sims and Walkinshaw, prioritized including those who have been historically left out in the conversations. </p></p><p><p>Past redistricting commissions have had more time and more face-to-face contact than this year. In 2011, the commission had until Jan. 1 to release maps, but five years later, voters moved the deadline up to Nov. 15 in an effort to give the state more time to implement districts before the following primary elections. </p></p><p><p>The COVID-19 pandemic also brought challenges for the commission, pushing back Census data and making them unable to meet in person.</p></p><p><p>Throughout Monday night, the commissioners said they faced some technical issues as they were finishing up their map drawing but that they were hopeful they would be able to take action by midnight. </p></p><p><p>“I’m really impressed with my fellow commissioners’ commitment to accomplish the job that we have been appointed to do,” Sims said.</p></p><p><p>Walkinshaw said he was hopeful the maps would reflect a lot of the commissioners’ priorities and what they, along with the public, had discussed over the last few months. </p></p><p><p>“Taking all the discussion we’ve had over the last few months and turning them into maps is a challenging process,” Graves said.</p></p><p><p><em>This story will be updated.</em></p></p>