State of Washington

Washington Legislative Redistricting Challenge (Soto Palmer)

Soto Palmer v. Hobbs

Lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of Washington voters and a nonprofit organization against the state’s legislative map drawn following the release of 2020 census data. In Washington, state legislative districts are nested, which means that one state senator and two representatives are elected from the same district. The complaint argues that Latino voters were intentionally “cracked” into several districts in the Yakima Valley region to dilute their voting strength in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The plaintiffs argue that redistricting commission in charge of map drawing created a “façade Latino opportunity district” in the area that they knew would not allow Latino voters the chance to elect their candidates of choice and therefore has both the intent and effect of diluting Latino voting power. The lawsuit asks the court to block the use of the approved legislative map in future elections and order the creation of a new map that includes a majority-Latino legislative district in the Yakima Valley region. Two Washington voters and a Republican member of the Washington House of Representatives intervened in the lawsuit.

The court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction blocking the map while litigation continues, which means the challenged legislative map remained in place for the 2022 elections. Litigation that could affect the map for the 2024 election cycle is ongoing. After holding a trial in June 2023, the judge ruled that the 15th Legislative District violates Section 2 of the VRA. On Sept. 8, the intervenor-defendants’ appealed the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Nov. 3, the intervenor-defendants’ filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to hear the case alongside a parallel appeal in a separate case over Washington’s legislative maps. On Feb. 20, 2024, the Court denied the intervenor-defendants’ petition for a writ of certiorari.

On March 15, the district court ordered the adoption of Remedial Map 3B, one of the maps proposed by the plaintiffs, which affords Latino voters in the Yakima Valley region to elect their preferred candidates. The Republican legislative intervenors filed an immediate notice of appeal to the 9th Circuit as well as a notice of a motion for a stay pending appeal. On March 22, the 9th Circuit denied the motion for a stay pending appeal. On March 25, the Republican legislative intervenors responded by filing an emergency application for a stay pending appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. On April 2, the Court denied the application for a stay.

STATUS: An appeal is in progress in the 9th Circuit. Litigation is ongoing.

Case Documents (district court)

Case Documents (9th circuit)

Case Documents (u.s. supreme court)

Last updated: