A Vancouver resident who has been outspoken about the way the state redraws its voting district boundaries is now asking the state's high court to weigh in.
John Milem, who says he advocates for redistricting that follows a formula rather than political preferences, filed a petition this week with the Washington State Supreme Court that asks the court to redo the lines. The redistricting plan was finalized Jan. 1 and is based on 2010 Census numbers.
Redistricting Commission Lura Powell of Richland told the Tri-City Herald that she's uncertain what the challenge ultimately might mean for the plan adopted by the commission.
"(The challenge) came as a surprise," she said. "There hasn't actually been a challenge before. This is the first time since the commission was created."
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Legislative and congressional districts are adjusted once a decade after census numbers are released.
By law, all legislative and congressional districts around the state must be home to about the same number of residents.
The Constitution gives the court the power to intervene in redistricting, and it has until March 1 to do so.
Milem's main complaint is that the state's redistricting commission failed to redraw the lines in a way outlined by state law and the state constitution. The current redistricting plan limits political competition and doesn't best represent the communities of Washington, according to the petition.
Milem said that citizens reformed redistricting rules in 1983, but the rules didn't have teeth, and those redrawing the lines continued to do so without the public's interest in mind.
"This lawsuit is 20 years late," Milem said this week. "It's not enough to get a law passed. You have to be sure that it's enforced."
Redistricting was supposed to avoid splitting cities and counties, Milem has pointed out in the past. Yet the congressional maps split nine counties compared with seven in the previous map. He said it was only necessary to split three to four counties. Seventeen counties are split in the legislative map. Only 11 needed to be split, he says.
Milem said political interests, such as the desire to keep an incumbent in his/her seat or wanting to keep Democrats/Republicans in a district, prevented that from happening.