A bill moving through the state Senate would cement a new deadline for local jurisdictions to submit redistricting plans following the 2020 census. The bill seeks to ensure that redistricting within the state is completed on time, despite delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Under SB 5013, jurisdictions would be required to submit their redistricting plans to the county auditor by the earlier of one of two dates: either eight months after the receipt of census data from the Washington State Redistricting Commission or by November 15, 2021.
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Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 which required the state redistricting commission to complete redistricting for state legislative and congressional districts by November 15 of each year ending in a one, which is 46 days earlier than was required. This bill would align current redistricting deadlines with state law, said the bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia).
The main purpose of this is to bring these local guidelines in line with the constitution and laws dealing with redistricting,” said Hunt. “Obviously this is a little up in the air given the fact that it appears the data from census bureau will be months late. So we will track that as we go … I know one of the local governments said that they are ‘extremely neutral’ on this, so we’ll see what that means.”
Due to an emergency clause included in the bill, it would take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature.
After obtaining population data from the US Census Bureau, the Washington State Redistricting Commission sends the data to each jurisdiction.
Due to the challenges posed both by coronavirus pandemic and lawsuits challenging the census, the US Census Bureau delayed deadlines for the count. This has caused delays in providing apportionment counts and redistricting data to states.
Redistricting must occur within 45 days after the data is received. Current law also requires each jurisdiction to prepare an updated wards or district scheme and submit it to the county auditor within eight months of receiving the data from the redistricting commission.
All counties and certain cities and special purpose districts use wards or districts to elect at least some members of their governing bodies. Special purpose districts are limited purpose local governments separate from a city, town, or county government.
After each census, any jurisdiction using wards or districts must review the boundaries of those districts to reflect census data.
The Washington State Redistricting Commission consists of two Democrats and two Republicans picked by the leaders of all four corners of the Legislature. A fifth member is picked by the four voting voting members to act as a nonvoting chairperson.
Democrats selected April Sims, secretary treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, and Brady Piñero Walkinshaw, a former state representative and CEO of Grist, the environmentalist media nonprofit to serve on the 2021 Commission. Republicans have not yet announced their selected members.
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