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WA Bill Changes Approval for Redistricting, Other Election Adjustments

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As Washington state continues to grapple with new voting maps after redistricting, a measure in the Legislature would ensure future maps comply with the Washington Voting Rights Act.

A lawsuit is challenging the way redistricting happened in the Yakima Valley, arguing the map creates the “facade” of a Latino-majority district.

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Audel Ramirez, a community organizer in Yakima community for the group OneAmerica, said Senate Bill 5597 would require changes to the election system be approved under the Washington Voting Rights Act passed in 2018.

“Litigation is costly,” Ramirez pointed out. “It takes away resources from communities that should better use those resources to provide services and infrastructure for their residents, instead of fighting prolonged court battles or things over systems that are clearly in violation of the Washington state Voting Rights Act.”

Ramirez noted OneAmerica is not involved with the statewide challenge, but he said after a yearslong fight in Yakima County, Latino communities achieved success at opening the door for representation on the commission board. Opponents of the bill say the Washington Voting Rights Act added to voter mistrust.

Melissa Rubio, political director for OneAmerica, said the measure would set up a pre-clearance process similar to a provision in the federal Voting Rights Act before it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. Rubio said the process would eliminate the need for expensive court battles.

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“Whether it’s redistricting or things like the ability to take away or add language translation to ballots or take away or add ballot boxes, there needs to be something that allows us to make sure that any changes that happen in our local election jurisdiction are in fact in line with the Washington Voting Rights Act,” Rubio contended.

Ramirez noted a lack of representation locally has big effects for people on the ground.

“That’s something not unique to the Yakima Valley,” Ramirez remarked. “We see it throughout the country, throughout the state and other parts of the world where environmentally, socially and economically people are suffering because the people who right now manage that budget don’t take their needs into consideration.”

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The bill has passed the Senate and is scheduled for an executive session in the House Committee on State Government and Tribal Relations Wednesday.


Erik Tegethoff headshot
Eric Tegethoff | WNS

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He’s also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

The above article was provided by Washington News Service. The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its content.

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