SEATTLE - Democrats and Republicans have released competing maps for the state’s 49 legislative districts as they move forward with the process of redrawing political boundaries.
The Seattle Times reports the proposals Tuesday by the four voting members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission will kick start negotiations. The bipartisan panel has a Nov. 15 deadline to finalize the maps.
The Republican maps, released by former state legislators Joe Fain and Paul Graves, seek to create many more competitive districts. The GOP is in the minority in both chambers in the Legislature.
The Democrats’ maps, from state labor council leader April Sims and former legislator Brady Piñero Walkinshaw, didn’t emphasize partisan competitiveness as a priority, saying their goals are fair representation and elevating communities of color.
By law, the new political districts must be as equal in population as possible — about 157,000 people per district — and aren’t supposed to be gerrymandered to favor any party or discriminate against any group.
At least three of the commission’s four voting members must approve the new maps by Nov. 15. The Legislature can make only minor tweaks. If the commission were to fail to reach agreement, the state Supreme Court would be charged with drawing the new maps.
Disputes over the initial plans began swiftly, with state Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski slamming the GOP plan as "gerrymandering" in a statement and arguing they "should go back to the drawing board and try producing maps that respect the law."
State Republican Party Chair Caleb Heimlich responded with his own statement, accusing Democrats of gerrymandering and describing their draft maps as "the definition of political hackery" aimed at keeping Democrats "in perpetual control."
Graves said his map would nearly double the number of swing districts from six to 11, and released a spreadsheet calculating the Democrats’ proposals would cut the number of swing districts in the state to just three. "We want competition," Graves said. "Democrats apparently do not."
Alex Bond, a spokesperson for the state Democrats, called that measure bogus, saying the party’s legislative candidates often lag behind the statewide votes, meaning the Graves plan would really create several new Republican-leaning districts.
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