After a year-long process, the four voting members of the bipartisan Washington State Redistricting Commission unanimously approved new political maps for congressional and legislative districts midday Sunday, with only hours remaining until the legal deadline to submit the new boundaries to the state legislature for review.

Talks had stalled during the previous week on the issue of how Hispanics should be represented in Yakima’s 15th legislative district. The 2010 U.S. Census data shows significant growth in Hispanic populations in Central and Eastern Washington, concentrations that makes the formation of a district made with a majority of minority residents a naturally occurring thing.

(State law instructs the redistricting commission not to make decisions to benefit or disadvantage specific individuals or groups.)

During most of the talks around drawing legislative districts in the eastern half of the state, Democrat and Republican teams hovered in 54% territory as a fair figure, but the map offered to Republicans on Wednesday morning by House Democratic appointee Dean Foster crafted a district with more than 60% Hispanic residents.

The most dramatic moment in the commission’s year-long deliberation came last Friday when House Republican Tom Huff presented an Eastern Washington map previously offered by Foster as a compromise, and moved to have the commission vote. Foster voted against the map he had previously presented along with Senate Democratic appointee Tim Ceis, while both Republicans vote in favor of adopting the plan that would have drawn the 15th legislative district with close to a 53% Hispanic population.

The final demographics for the 15th legislative district give it slightly more than a 54% Hispanic population, up from around 47% as it is currently drawn. If Yakima was the point of demarcation in the political tug-of-war between the parties, Republicans appear to be the ones still standing. In particular, if the national Republican agenda begins to take up the banner of rational immigration reform, districts like the 15th could be one place that a renewal in the relationship between ethnic communities and the GOP begins.

The commission also approved the earlier congressional map presented by Senate Republican Slade Gorton and Senate Democratic appointee Tim Ceis that drew the new 10th congressional district in Thurston and Pierce Counties and reconfigured the 9th congressional district of Rep. Adam Smith (D) to become the first majority-minority congressional seat in state history. Western Washington’s legislative maps previously offered by the House and Senate teams were also part of today’s agreement with only small changes made for reconciliation purposes.

There will still be minor tweaks made during reviews by the Legislature and auditors, but changes from this point are restricted to very small percentages in population and the shapes of the districts as drawn by the commission cannot be changed. In short, Washington State, these are your districts until this process repeats after the 2020 U.S. Census.

Google versions of the maps adopted by the commission are now available for viewing here at NW Daily Marker.


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