Supreme Court declines to stay new legislative maps

Apr. 3—New legislative maps necessitated by a federal lawsuit will officially be used in the November election.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to stay a legislative map that shifts voters in South Thurston County from the 20th Legislative District to the Second Legislative District, a move necessitated by the reshuffle of districts throughout Southwest and Central Washington.

"Latino voters in the Yakima Valley region of Washington State will now, for the first time, have an opportunity to elect three candidates of choice to the Washington Legislature in 2024," the UCLA Voting Rights Project (UCLA VRP), which brought the lawsuit, said in a release Tuesday.

The shift in Southwest Washington's legislative boundaries is just one of many in the state after a federal judge's ruling the previous map violated the rights of voters in south-central Washington.

The case centered around the 15th Legislative District, which stretches from Yakima to Pasco. In August, a federal judge found the previous maps split the region's Hispanic population between multiple districts, diluting their voting power. The new map will connect Latino communities from East Yakima in Yakima County to Pasco in Franklin County.

"Today, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that Washington state will use a lawful map for the next general election. This decision guarantees that all voters can participate, assured their votes count on a map adhering to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. We are proud to advocate for our clients in the Yakima Valley," said Sonni Waknin, program manager and voting rights counsel at the UCLA VRP.

After the map's release, Republicans throughout the state decried the legislative boundaries. At the time, 15th District Sen. Nikki Torres, R-Pasco, wrote in a statement that she was "personally very disappointed" in the new maps.

In a statement Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, called the map "racially discriminatory."

"All this partisan gerrymandered map does is help Democrats to a greater share of political power," Braun said in a statement. "They reduce the number of Hispanics in the new majority-minority district in order to cram more Democrats in. The new district goes from a Republican majority to a +14.4% Democrat majority."

A federal appeals court previously declined a motion to stay the maps.