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WA Voting Map Lawsuit in Yakima Valley Won't Affect 2022 Elections

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Thursday, July 21, 2022   

A lawsuit challenging Washington state's new legislative map is underway, but it will not affect this year's primary or midterm elections.

The suit alleges the Washington State Redistricting Commission's state map in the Yakima Valley dilutes votes for the region's growing population of Washingtonians of Latin heritage.

Ernest Herrera, western regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is part of the lawsuit, explained the group's concern.

"This map was drawn in a manner that creates what we call a facade district, meaning it is a district that is meant to appear to give Latinos an opportunity to elect but does not actually give them an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice," Herrera pointed out.

District 15, the district in question, has a Latino voting population of 50.02% and, the suit alleges, cuts out heavily Latino populations in cities such as Yakima and Toppenish. The commission said it did not want to split up the Yakama Reservation, which is in the 14th District.

But Herrera argued the map resulted in a racial gerrymandering. He said even if it wasn't intentional, it is a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act, which laid out what is required in redistricting.

"Minorities are entitled to a district where they are sufficiently numerous, meaning eligible voters; where there is racially polarized voting, meaning the majority group, usually white people, votes in opposition to whoever the minority group wants; and where there is a history of discrimination," Herrera outlined.

Herrera added it also has an effect on the people who live in the region.

"Beyond the law, beyond the federal law, here you have Latinos in the Yakima Valley region and Pasco who are trying to elect representatives who are going to improve their lives and represent them in state government and in local government," Herrera emphasized.

Herrera noted the trial is scheduled to begin next January, although the state of Washington has filed a motion to push the date back at least six months.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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