Thursday, June 30, 2022
June 30, 2022

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Clark County can adopt controversial new C2 voting district map, judge rules

By , Columbian staff writer

Clark County Superior Court Judge David Gregerson on Thursday ruled the county had the legal authority to adopt a new voting district map after the deadline set by state law, making it likely this year’s Clark County Council election will proceed with the controversial map C2 preferred by Republicans.

Gregerson made the ruling in response to a suit filed by former county redistricting committee member Janet Landesberg. Landesberg filed the suit just hours after the council voted 3-1 to adopt map C2 at its May 11 meeting.

A Washington statute states a “municipal corporation, county, or district shall prepare a plan for redistricting its internal or director districts… by Dec. 31, 2021, if the jurisdiction is scheduled to elect members to its governing body in 2022.”

However, Gregerson said the county’s home rule charter meant those timing provisions are locally controlled rather than dictated by state law.

But the case and Landesberg’s motion did raise some interesting “philosophical questions” about the appropriate role of the judiciary and legislative functions by elected leaders, Gregerson added.

“There are often provisions for judicial intervention under certain circumstances. I’m reminded of… the old adage that we get the government we deserve and the two things you never want to see made are legislation and sausage,” he said. “The question of the process by which this is being undertaken, the propriety of it, the fairness of it, is not so much a concern of the court. The court’s question is really the legality of it.”

Gregerson said he wasn’t commenting or ruling on the other allegations included in the lawsuit, only the question of whether the county council violated state law or the county charter when it adopted a map after the Dec. 31 deadline.

“In theory, these elected officials who undertake this are accountable to the public at the voting booth. We rely upon robust media coverage to show the public, out in the open, what is going on by our chosen leaders, by elected members, by commission members,” Gregerson said. “But the long and short of it is that at this time, this court is compelled to deny the plaintiff’s motion.”

In her suit, Landesberg also said the Legislature anticipated that voters may want to challenge the redistricting outcome and provided sufficient time for the court to hold a hearing before filing week began.

“Approving a redistricting map three business days before filing week begins does not provide either party with sufficient time to address the issues and conduct limited discovery,” Landesberg said.

Filing week for Clark County was May 16 through May 20.

Landesberg also claims the maps proposed by both the redistricting committee and county council included significant changes to District 2 and District 5 boundaries. Those changes, she said in the suit, impacted candidates wanting to file for either of those races this year.

Landesberg additionally noted the county council relied on the district map approved by voters in November when it sought candidates to fill former Councilor Eileen Quiring O’Brien’s position in March.

“It is unfair to both potential applicants who did not reside in District 5 under the voter-approved map but now reside in District 5,” Landesberg claims.

While the county’s legal counsel and Landesberg initially agreed to address these and other issues, such as whether the council gerrymandered the map to benefit a single political party, at a future date, that may no longer be the case.

In an email sent Thursday, Landesberg said “I do not think anything could be heard before the primary, which makes proceeding further of little use.”

However, Landesberg said she is not yet ready to consider dropping the suit.

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