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Redistricting commission settles open-meeting lawsuits, accepts token punishment

In the latest chapter of the state’s tortured redistricting process, the Washington Redistricting Commission agreed to settle two lawsuits that challenged its redrawn maps of congressional and legislative districts over the commissioners’ naked contempt for the Open Public Meetings Act. 

The settlements don’t change the maps, which wasn’t really the point of these lawsuits. Instead, they extract a formal admission of violating the open-meetings law. Each commissioner must pay a $500 fine, and the agency will pay legal costs of about $135,000 to the Washington Coalition for Open Government and Arther West, a transparency activist. It also promised to do better in the future, which would be great if the whole agency weren’t about to dissolve.  

The next redistricting commission isn’t due to convene until 2031, so it’s not at all clear that anything will really change. The process of redrawing the maps is so inherently about political horse-trading that keeping it secret is likely well worth a $500 fine. For a review of what the commission actually did, check out our deep dive at The Washington Observer.

The settlements don’t affect a separate legal challenge to the legislative map that focuses on the racial composition of the new 15th District in the Yakima Valley.

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