Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

New Legislative District Boundaries in Washington State

On Friday, March 15, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik selected new boundaries for legislative districts in Central Washington after rejecting a proposed map in August 2023. This comes before a March 25 deadline for maps to be submitted for the 2024 election.

The new district maps aim to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires fair and equitable representation in elections. The Voting Rights Act requires district lines to be drawn to make sure that the voting power of minority groups is not diluted. 

These actions are just the latest in a series of concerns about electoral maps that potentially violate the Voting Rights Act since the most recent redistricting process began in 2021.

Redistricting is a process that occurs every 10 years in Washington state, where district boundaries are redrawn to account for new population information collected by the census. This process can have an impact on political representation by changing the body of voters for elected officials. 

The 16th District, which constitutes Walla Walla County, now includes parts of the Tri-Cities. District 14 has been redrawn to enhance Latino representation in the Yakima Valley, a change that has displaced some incumbents and created vacancies. This change forces Republican Nikki Torres, the only Latina in the Republican state senate caucus, to move districts. 

In a statement to The Wire, District 16 Representative Skyler Rude, a Republican, discussed his reaction to the redistricting. 

“Hispanic citizen voting age population in the new district is smaller than it is in the current district, so this ‘remedy’ actually dilutes Hispanic voters if anything. This solution is absurd. It kicks Sen. Nikki Torres, the first Latina senator from that district, out of her district, presumably because she’s from a party that doesn’t fit the preferred narrative of the plaintiffs. Hispanic people are independent thinkers that identify as Republican, Democrat, third party and independent – to assume they vote as a bloc does a disservice to them and everyone else,” Rude said.

Controversies about redistricting can occur around gerrymandering, a process where electoral district boundaries can be manipulated with the intent of creating an unfair advantage for a political party within a particular constituency. 

Rude continued addressing gerrymandering and how redistricting did not have to be the sole solution to addressing population changes. 

“I’d also add that Washington’s redistricting commission model ensures bipartisan maps, free from the gerrymandering seen in other states. The only reason the courts are redrawing the map instead of the bipartisan redistricting commission is because majority party leadership in the legislature refused to reconvene the commission even when the judge was requesting it. This is a highly partisan solution that could have been resolved in a way that didn’t displace Sen. Torres and didn’t draw district lines through multiple communities, like West Richland, Benton City and Pasco,” Rude said.

First-year student and Walla Walla native Zack Wood discussed the political changes that might occur as a result of the redistricting. 

“Reshaping the lines of districts is nothing new. Both parties rightfully attempt to increase their odds of winning while diminishing the odds for the other; since Washington is a blue state, the Democrats usually win that battle. The way I see it is that they just put two already established Republican candidates into the same district where only one can be the senator, which opens the door for the other district to gain a Democrat. In the grand scheme of things, Washington loses one Republican [state] senator and gains a Democratic one,” Wood said in an email to The Wire.

The redistricting efforts ordered by the court highlight an effort to balance fair representation with political realities. The new maps aim to address these concerns but have stirred debate and controversy, which may affect local governance and voter representation.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *