On April 8, 2021, Professor Levitt was called to government service. Stay tuned for an update on the continued operation of this site.
Prof. Justin Levitt's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

State Summary

Washington’s congressional and state legislative lines are drawn by a five-member independent commission.

Each of the four legislative leaders (majority and minority party leader in each legislative house) each selected one registered voter to serve as commissioner; the Democratic leadership made its choices on Dec. 10, 2020, and the Republican leadership made its choices on Jan. 15, 2021.  The commissioners are listed here.  The independent commission will submit its districting plan to the legislature, which may within the next 30 days amend the plan if two-thirds of each house approves the amendment.

In the 2010 cycle, Washington’s commission released final maps (along with a final report) for congressional and state legislative districts on Jan. 1, 2012.  With a 2/3 vote in each house, the state legislature passed a slightly amended version of those plans (HCR 4409), on Feb. 1, 2012, formally signed on Feb. 7, 2012.

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Institution:

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The Latest Updates

Feb 21, 2021
The Washington state redistricting commission held its first meeting. The names of the four appointed commissioners and non-voting chairperson can be found here.
Jan 15, 2021
Washington's legislative leadership named the four voting members of its commission. The Democratic leadership made its choices on Dec. 10, 2020; the new Republican choices are here and here.

Institution

Washington’s congressional and state legislative lines are drawn by a five-member independent commission, created in 1982.

Each of the four legislative leaders (majority and minority party leader in each legislative house) each select one registered voter to serve as commissioner, and those four commissioners choose a nonvoting fifth commissioner to serve as chair. If the commissioners cannot agree on a chair, the state Supreme Court will select one. [Wash. Const. art. II, § 43(2)]  The Democratic leadership made its choices on Dec. 10, 2020, and the Republican leadership made its choices on Jan. 15, 2021.  The five commissioners for 2020 are listed here.

The state constitution provides that no commissioner may have been an elected official or elected district, county, or state party officer within two years of appointment to the commission. [Wash. Const. art. II, § 43(3)]  State law further prohibits those who have been registered lobbyists within the last year from serving as a commissioner; this latter limitation may be altered by the state legislature. [Rev. Code Wash. § 44.05.050]

The independent commission will submit its districting plan to the legislature, which may within the next 30 days amend the plan if two-thirds of each house approves the amendment. State statute provides that no legislative amendment may include more than two percent of the population of any particular district; this limitation may be altered by statute. [Wash. Const. art. II, § 43(7)Rev. Code Wash. § 44.05.100]

The state Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to hear legal challenges in state court to redistricting plans; it is also given the automatic authority to draw plans itself if the commission has not adopted a plan by Nov. 15, 2021. [Rev. Code Wash. §§ 44.05.10044.05.130]

Timing

The Washington state constitution requires that the commission produce congressional and state legislative plans by Nov. 15, 2021, and the legislature will have 30 days thereafter to amend the plan. If the commission does not produce plans by Nov. 15, 2021, the state Supreme Court will produce a plan, by Apr. 30, 2022.  Candidates must file for congressional and state legislative primary elections by May 20, 2022.  [Wash. Const. art. II, § 43(6); Rev. Code Wash. §§ 29A.24.050; 44.05.100]

In the normal course of affairs, Washington law prohibits redrawing state legislative lines mid-decade, before the next Census. However, by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature, the independent commission may be reconvened to redraw district lines at any time. [Wash. Const. art. II, § 43(8), (11); Rev. Code Wash. §§ 44.05.10044.05.120]

Public input

Commission meetings are open to the public (and subject to the state’s Open Meetings Act).  When the commission’s work is done, the commission must publish a report explaining the plan.  [Rev. Code Wash. § 44.05.080]

The commission began holding meetings on February 21, 2021. Records of these meetings can be found here.

Criteria

Like all states, Washington must comply with constitutional equal population requirements; the state constitution further requires that state legislative districts be equally populated, “as nearly as practicable,” excluding nonresident military personnel.  Washington will also adjust census data for congressional and state legislative districts in order to count incarcerated individuals at their last known residence before incarceration.  [Wash. Const. art. II, § 43(5); Rev. Code Wash. §§ 44.05.090, .140]

Washington must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.

The Washington constitution requires that, to the extent reasonable, both constitutional and state legislative districts should be contiguous, compact, and convenient, and follow natural geographic, artificial, or political subdivision boundaries. The commission must also not purposely draw plans to favor or discriminate against any political party or group. By statute, Washington further provides that districts should be drawn to preserve areas recognized as communities of interest, and that the number of divided counties and municipalities be as small as possible; they also define contiguous areas as those without geographical boundaries or artificial barriers preventing transportation (and similarly include contiguity by water if the areas are connected by a ferry, highway, bridge, or tunnel). Finally, Washington statutes require the commission to “provide fair and effective representation and to encourage electoral competition.” [Wash. Const. art. II, § 43(5)Rev. Code Wash. § 44.05.090]

State legislative districts are, by definition, nested; one Senator and two Representatives are elected from each district. [Rev. Code Wash. § 44.05.090]

2010 cycle

Washington’s commission released final maps (along with a final report) for congressional and state legislative districts on Jan. 1, 2012.  With a 2/3 vote in each house, the state legislature passed a slightly amended version of those plans (HCR 4409), on Feb. 1, 2012, formally signed on Feb. 7, 2012.

The plans were briefly challenged in state court, but then those challenges were withdrawn.  [In re 2012 Wash. State Redistricting Plan, No. 86976-6 (Wash. S. Ct. Nov. 2d, 2012)]

2000 cycle

Washington’s commission adopted congressional plans on Jan. 2, 2002, and state legislative plans on Dec. 17, 2001.  With a 2/3 vote in each house, the legislature made two minor adjustments (SCR 8429, SCR 8430) to the state legislative plan on Feb. 11, 2002.

It does not appear that either plan was challenged in court.