WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, a lawsuit was filed in federal court challenging Washington state’s commission-approved legislative map for diluting the voting strength of Latino voters. Notably, the map is not law yet. The complaint, filed on behalf of a group of Washington voters and a nonprofit organization, focuses on the legislative map drawn with 2020 census data by the five-member Washington State Redistricting Commission. The map-drawing process hasn’t followed protocol: After the commission failed to enact new legislative and congressional maps in time, the Washington Supreme Court adopted the commission’s maps. The Washington Legislature can make adjustments to the commission-approved legislative and congressional districts with a two-thirds vote until Feb. 8.
In Washington, the Legislature consists of districts which elect one state senator and two representatives. The lawsuit focuses on how the commission-approved legislative map configures a legislative district in the Yakima Valley region, arguing that Latino voters were intentionally “cracked” into several surrounding districts to dilute their voting strength. The plaintiffs argue that the commission created a “façade Latino opportunity district” in the area by including white, rural voters and “non-politically active Latino voters” and excluding “adjacent, politically cohesive Latino voters” to ensure that Latino voters cannot elect their candidates of choice. According to the complaint, the commission’s “decision to create the façade of a Latino opportunity district that they knew would not perform to elect Latino-preferred candidates has the intent and effect of diluting the voting power of Latino voters in violation of [Section 2 of] the Voting Rights Act.” The lawsuit asks the court to block the use of the commission-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.