A new map from Washington redistricting Commissioner Brady Piñero Walkinshaw creates a Latino-majority district by citizens of voting age in the Yakima Valley.
A report released last week by a voting rights expert said the preliminary maps released by the four state commissioners wouldn’t allow for election of Latino-favored candidates, even though each map included a Latino-majority district in the Yakima Valley. The discrepancy could violate the federal Voting Rights Act, the report said.
In an area that displays polarized voting, like the Yakima Valley, Latino-majority districts aren’t enough to ensure Latino voters elect their favored candidates, UCLA voting rights project director Matt Barreto said in the report. Mapmakers need to consider the number of Latino voters, not the total number of Latinos, when drawing political boundaries, Barreto said.
The Yakima area district needs to maintain a Latino majority based on citizens of voting age population totals to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, he said.
Walkinshaw, a Democratic appointee to the bipartisan commission, said his new map makes the 14th a Latino-majority district by voting age and would cover the entire Yakama Nation.
Walkinshaw said any map that doesn’t measure Latinos by voting age should not be considered by the commission.
“It is irresponsible to the historically underrepresented communities in the Yakima Valley to entertain any proposals that undermine their rights under federal law, and irresponsible to the people of Washington state to do anything that might leave the state so blatantly vulnerable to litigation,” Walkinshaw said in statement.
District 15 currently has a Latino-majority by total population, but the 14th does not. Walkinshaw’s 14th would cover parts of Yakima, Benton, Grant and Klickitat counties. The 15th would cover parts of Yakima, Kittitas and Grant counties. The map would move the 13th to the west, to Pierce, King and Kittitas counties.
The Yakama Reservation was united in all four draft maps released by the commission in September. The reservation is currently split between Districts 14 and 15.
None of the commissioners’ previously proposed maps would have a Latino-majority if the citizens of voting age population was considered.
The population percentage in Commissioner Paul Graves’ Latino-majority district would drop from 54% to 34% Latino under the voting age measurement. The percentage in Commissioner Joe Fain’s Latino-majority district would drop from 55% to 34% Latino. Commissioner April Sims’ would drop from 65% to 45% Latino. Walkinshaw’s original proposal would have dropped from 61% to 40% Latino.
Sims said in Monday’s special meeting she is committed to drawing a Voting Rights Act-compliant map. Sims is a Democratic appointee.
Fain and Graves, the Republican appointees, didn’t discuss the issue and could not immediately be reached for comment.
Three of the four commissioners must agree on a single legislative map and a single congressional map by midnight Nov. 15. The two final maps will be passed to the Legislature for consideration. The Legislature will have 30 days into its 2022 session to make any amendments to the maps. If no amendments are made, the commission’s maps will become law as they were submitted.