11/16/21 | The Spokesman-Review | by Laural Demkivich | This story will be updated |
OLYMPIA — Washington’s redistricting commission failed to approve new legislative and congressional maps by its Monday deadline, forcing the state Supreme Court to redraw district boundaries that will last 10 years.
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. After hours of private meetings late Monday, the commission seemingly approved new maps, although none had been seen by the public at that point.
Just after midnight, before the group adjourned, the group’s chair even congratulated the other members for completing their tasks.
But in a statement released Tuesday morning, the commission acknowledged it missed the deadline. It was unclear how the deadline was missed because the vote on the maps appeared to be before midnight and the commissioners at the end of the meeting acted as if they completed their duties, even though they never released the maps they claimed to be voting on.
This is the first time since the commission was created for the 1991 redistricting that it has failed to reach the deadline.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
The new maps for the 10 U.S. House districts and 49 state legislative districts will be in place for a decade.
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.
With even 20 minutes to spare, commissioners kept saying they “were working toward an agreement.” (Follow the rest of this Redistricting article)