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News / Northwest

Federal appeals court won’t block Washington’s redrawn legislative district map

By Jerry Cornfield, Washington State Standard
Published: March 25, 2024, 5:52pm

 The overhauled legislative district map for Washington state, with the redrawn boundaries for the 15th district. The map was approved by a federal judge on Friday, March 15.

New legislative district boundaries intended to amplify the voice of Latino voters in the Yakima Valley will be in place for elections this year, after a panel of federal judges declined to pause them from taking effect.

But the judges said a challenge to the legality of the borders can continue before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving open the possibility of their refinement or erasure. A panel of three circuit judges, Sandra Ikuta, Michelle Friedland and Salvador Mendoza, issued the order Friday night. Briefs in the appeal are due starting in June, per court records.

Meanwhile, on Monday, those opposed to the new boundaries asked the U.S. Supreme Court to issue an emergency stay preventing their use.

The fight centers on a lawsuit filed by Latino voters, arguing the 15th Legislative District borders approved by the Washington Legislature in early 2022 violated federal law by impairing the ability of Latino voters to participate equally in elections.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik agreed, ruling last summer that the configuration of the district diluted the Latino vote and must be redrawn in time for the 2024 elections.

On March 15, Lasnik approved a new district map covering communities from East Yakima to Pasco and including Wapato, Toppenish, Grainger and Sunnyside. Nearly all of the historic lands of the Yakama Nation Reservation are in the district.

And Lasnik approved renumbering the 15th district as the 14th, with legislative races, including the state Senate seat, appearing on ballots in presidential election years — including this year. Plaintiffs argued that the Latino community will have a better chance to elect a candidate of their choosing because that is when turnout of Latino voters is historically higher.

A different group of Latino voters, including state Rep. Alex Ybarra, R-Quincy, opposed a redrawing of the district and had appealed Lasnik’s latest action.

“We are proceeding with the maps for the 2024 election,” said Derrick Nunnally, deputy director for external affairs for the Secretary of State’s Office.

The revised boundaries will take effect after the April 23 special election, he said. County auditors will inform voters if they are residing in a new legislative district.

Five of the Yakima Valley region’s state lawmakers will find themselves living in new districts.

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Sen. Nikki Torres, R-Pasco, elected in the 15th district by an overwhelming margin in 2022, will be in the 16th district, which is represented by Sen. Perry Dozier, R-Waitsburg. State law allows Torres, the Senate’s only Republican Latina,  to complete her term even though she won’t be living within its boundaries.

Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, who represents the 12th district, will be in the 7th district. He plans to move to Wenatchee, which is in the 12th, and run for re-election this year.

Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, represents the 14th district but will be in the 15th district. His term expires this year. He has not said if will relocate and seek reelection, or retire.

In the House, Republican Reps. Chris Corry of Yakima and Gina Mosbrucker of Goldendale, who currently represent the 14th district, will be in the 15th and the 17th districts respectively.

The Washington State Standard is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news outlet that provides original reporting, analysis and commentary on Washington state government and politics. We seek to keep you informed about Washington’s most pressing issues, the decisions elected leaders are making, how they are spending tax dollars and who is influencing public policy.

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