SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Washington state's bipartisan redistricting commission failed to meet its deadline for redrawing political maps, meaning the task will now be taken up by the state Supreme Court.
This is the first time the panel has failed to finish its work since the state adopted a constitutional amendment giving redistricting authority to a bipartisan commission after the 1990 census.
The panel had a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Monday to approve new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts following the 2020 census. They voted hastily just before midnight but failed to publicly produce any maps.
“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 Tuesday.
The commission members blamed the late release of census data combined with technical problems.
Under state law the Washington Supreme Court will take over the job of drawing new political district maps. The high court has until the end of April to come up with 10 U.S. House districts and 49 state legislative districts that will be in place for the next decade, starting with the 2022 midterm elections.
Washington didn't gain a new U.S. House seat following the latest census, but the delay in producing new maps means further uncertainty about what the new political maps will eventually look like.
Currently, Washington has seven Democratic U.S. House members and three Republicans. The state Legislature is controlled by Democrats.
Washington's Supreme Court justices are elected but the contests are officially non-partisan.
Washington’s 2021 commission consisted 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.
After going into a scheduled public meeting via Zoom at 7 p.m. Monday, the commissioners went into closed-door caucuses, which 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.
Nicholas K. Geranios, The Associated Press