State Relations

November 17, 2021

Washington state’s redistricting process

Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau counts the entire U.S. population to understand how the nation’s populace and economy have changed and shifted. The data collected helps determine how the federal government distributes funds to states and local communities. It also determines the number of seats allocated to each state in the U.S. House of Representatives and is used by states to draw new legislative districts.

The most recent census occurred in 2020 with the data released earlier this year. In Washington state, the census data shows population has grown by 14.6% since 2010 and the diversity index has increased to 61.1% from 54.9%.

To maintain fair and equal districts as communities change, the state’s legislative and congressional districts are redrawn after each census. The bipartisan Washington State Redistricting Commission, consisting of two Democrat and two Republican voting members, was charged with this task under strict rules designed to create districts of relatively equal population that do not provide a partisan advantage or discriminate against any demographic group. To the best of their ability, the commission also has to avoid splitting up cities or other political subdivisions and follow natural boundaries.

In September, all four redistricting commissioners released proposed legislative and congressional district maps providing the starting point for negotiation and public feedback. Throughout the process, the public provided information on their local communities, drew community maps, and shared testimony.

By law, the commission had until midnight Nov. 15 to finalize and vote on the new political boundaries with at least three of four voting members agreeing to the maps. The commission approved and published new maps but was unable to adopt them prior to the deadline. The Washington Supreme Court now has the jurisdiction to adopt a districting plan by April 30, 2022. At this time, it is unclear how the Court will proceed but more information is expected soon.

To learn more about the state’s redistricting process, visit the Washington State Redistricting Commission website.