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Washington commission OKs Congressional District map after missing deadline

Although a redistricting commission came up with a plan after the deadline, the state Supreme Court will decide Washington’s new Congressional District map.

Editor's note: The above video on reactions to redistricting proposals originally aired October 11, 2021.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – 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.

In a statement, the commission said its members were unable to adopt a plan by the deadline on Monday at 11:59 p.m. The late release of the 2020 Census data combined technical challenges "hampered" commissioners, according to the panel.

However, the commission reached a consensus on a mapping plan later Tuesday and said it submitted that plan to the Supreme Court.

This is the first time the panel has failed to finish its work on time since the state adopted a constitutional amendment giving redistricting authority to a bipartisan commission after the 1990 census.

Under state law, the Washington Supreme Court will take over the job of drawing new political district maps. The commission asked that the court consider the maps it approved after its deadline.

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The high court has until the end of April to come up with 10 U.S. House districts and 49 state legislative districts.

The Washington State Redistricting Commission had initially released four proposed Congressional District maps on Sept. 28.

The commission, made up of five members, consists of individuals chosen by leaders in the state legislature. Each leader of the two largest parties in each chamber of the legislature gets to appoint a voting member. The fifth appointed member acts as a non-voting chairperson.

The proposed maps were largely similar in their drawing of the central Puget Sound but become vastly different everywhere else in the state.

For instance, Senate Republican appointee Joe Fain proposed keeping nearly all of Washingtonians in their existing districts while expanding District 6, which takes up the Olympic Peninsula, to the south into District 3 all the way to the Oregon border. His Democratic counterpart Brady Pinero Walkinshaw meanwhile sought to expand District 2, which is mostly Island County and the San Juan Islands, further east into Whatcom County up to the Canadian border.

The House Republican appointee Paul Graves said that his map would give better representation to those “underrepresented” in the state legislature. House Democratic appointee April Sims also sought to provide fair representation with her map.

The redistricting process, which happens every 10 years following the census, has been seen as a partisan battle and a way for each party to manipulate votes in future elections in their favor.