OLYMPIA – Washington’s redistricting commission released what is likely to be its final proposal for reapportioning the state’s residents into equally-populated congressional districts Wednesday morning, including plans for a majority-minority district in South King County, and situating the new 10th district around the state’s capital.

But all of the work made to reach agreement on congressional maps could be erased by an eleventh-hour development in what most observers would presume to be a sleeper – legislative redistricting in Eastern Washington.

After the morning meeting in which congressional maps were unveiled, the commission reconvened to discuss progress toward drawing the lines in the less-populated eastern half of Washington State. As soon as the meeting reconvened, House Democrat appointee Dean Foster announced that he and his counterpart in the Eastern Washington negotiations – House Republican appointee Tom Huff – had reached an impasse worthy of throwing the work over to the full commission.

If the commission cannot achieve a consensus on both of the maps it is tasked to create — congressional and legislative — neither map can be adopted. If the commission does not approve a set of maps, the entire process would be thrown over to the State Supreme Court.

Huff’s response did not camouflage his frustration.

“I am deeply disappointed in the process,” Huff said, adding later that the supposed standoff appeared to be “well scripted.”

The bone of contention Huff and Foster are getting hackles up is how to best apportion districts to recognize growing Hispanic resident populations in Eastern Washington. All of the maps proposed by each of the four commissioners on September 13th contained at least one legislative district that had a majority population of minority residents. Although Foster’s initial proposal for the pivotal 14th and 15th legislative districts in Yakima from September 13th is remarkably similar to the most recent map put forward by Huff, Foster’s substantial last minute changes tug at a delicately balanced arrangement of political interests much like a hasty pull of a Jenga block.

The commission recessed after a brief and tense interchange in order to give each team time to gather accompanying data for the various maps to be discussed. Upon reconvening, Huff suggested that the commission adjourn for the day to ingest the data and engage in further talks — Senate Democrat appointee Tim Ceis intervened and requested further conversation before adjourning and also added a new concern about how legislative districts in Spokane are shaping up.

The commission is scheduled to meet again Thursday at 10:30am.


[photo credit: indi.ca]