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Back to the future for Slade and redistricting

by Brian Zylstra | January 4th, 2011

Photo provided by Howard E. McCurdy

Soon after former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton was introduced today as the state Senate Republicans’ appointee to the 2011 state Redistricting Commission, he met in Secretary Reed’s office (below) to briefly discuss Washington’s current congressional and legislative district boundaries, as well as talk about past redistricting efforts.

Gorton is very familiar with the redistricting process. This 1965 photo above shows him (standing on the far right) and other House Republican members and staffers reviewing maps in the Legislative Building. Note the adding machine and the long roll of paper used back then, long before computers became a key tool in determining how to redraw the district boundaries.

At that time, the House and Senate HAD to agree on a redistricting bill. In August 1962, a lawsuit (Thigpen v. Meyers) was filed in U.S. District Court and the court ruled that December that “existing apportionment of the Washington Legislature is invidiously discriminatory.” But the Legislature adjourned the next year without passing a redistricting bill. That July, Secretary of State Vic Meyers appealed Thigpen to the U.S. Supreme Court and petitioned for a stay of the District Court’s ruling. In June 1964, the High Court rejected the state’s appeal in Thigpen, thus upholding the District Court’s judgment. That October, the District Court ordered the Legislature to enact a constitutional reapportionment as its first order of business in the 1965 legislative session. That meant that the Legislature couldn’t pass any other legislation until it passed a redistricting bill. The Legislature did so 47 days after convening.

The state’s redistricting process was brought under the judicial microscope again in the 1970s, prompting passage of a state constitutional amendment in 1983 creating an independent bipartisan redistricting commission, charged with revising the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts. The first Redistricting Commission was appointed in January 1991 and submitted a plan to the Legislature on Jan. 1, 1992.

The other appointees to this year’s Redistricting Commission are Tim Ceis (Senate Democrats), Dean Foster (House Democrats) and Tom Huff (House Republicans).

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