Court-ordered redistricting analysis
In this post, Washington Community Alliance's Andrew Hong takes a look at the new maps that will be used for 2024 legislative elections (NPI graphic)

After the suc­cess­ful Soto Palmer v. Hobbs Vot­ing Rights Act law­suit, Wash­ing­ton State final­ly fin­ished its sec­ond state leg­isla­tive dis­trict redis­trict­ing process this decade, with new state leg­isla­tive dis­trict maps sent to the Sec­re­tary of State for the 2024 elec­tion. Unlike the first redis­trict­ing process for 2020, how­ev­er, these maps were drawn with sub­stan­tive con­sul­ta­tion from com­mu­ni­ties of col­or and ful­ly com­ply with the Fed­er­al Vot­ing Rights Act.

This is because the first redis­trict­ing process was con­duct­ed by a legal­ly-fraught bipar­ti­san com­mis­sion of two Demo­c­rat and two Repub­li­can vot­ing mem­bers that drew a racist, ille­gal ger­ry­man­der bar­ring Lati­nos from their right to elect can­di­dates of their choice. 

Lati­no vot­ers brought a Sec­tion II Vot­ing Rights Act law­suit against the State just weeks after the bipar­ti­san Com­mis­sion unan­i­mous­ly passed their ger­ry­man­der. Then last August, fed­er­al dis­trict court judge Robert Las­nik ruled in favor Lati­no vot­ers and ordered the State to draw a new leg­isla­tive map ahead of the 2024 elec­tions. Instead of recall­ing the very com­mis­sion that passed the ini­tial ille­gal maps, the State opt­ed to let the courts redraw a legal map that meets the require­ments laid out in the Vot­ing Rights Act. 

Now that the reme­di­al process is com­plet­ed, Lati­nos in Yaki­ma and Pas­co have the abil­i­ty to elect can­di­dates of their choice to Olympia for the first time in his­to­ry in the new 14th Leg­isla­tive District.

While this deci­sion — and sub­se­quent map — is already being appealed by right-wing groups, those appeals won’t be set­tled until far after the map dead­line for the 2024 elec­tion. Thus, these new maps will almost cer­tain­ly be used in 2024 to elect the next State Leg­is­la­ture for the 2025–2026 leg­isla­tive sessions.

The New Maps: 14th District

The bulk of the con­se­quen­tial changes in this new map revolve around Lati­no and Native com­mu­ni­ties in Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton, name­ly the 14th and 15th Districts. 

In the old map used 2022, the 15th Dis­trict was the faux-Lati­no dis­trict with a pop­u­la­tion of 73% Lati­no and 77% peo­ple of col­or (POC) accord­ing to the 2020 US Census. 

How­ev­er, of eli­gi­ble vot­ers, only 51% were Lati­no and 57% POC. In the new 2024 map, the 15th dis­trict got rela­beled as the 14th District. 

This was inten­tion­al and impor­tant because the 14th District’s sen­a­tor gets elect­ed dur­ing pres­i­den­tial years with high Lati­no turnout where­as the 15th Dis­trict elects its sen­a­tor in low­er-turnout midterm years. 

Lati­nos com­prise a sim­i­lar 70% of its pop­u­la­tion and 50% of its eli­gi­ble vot­ers. How­ev­er the new 14th Dis­trict unites Lati­no and Native com­mu­ni­ties in the Yaka­ma Native Amer­i­can Nation with shared com­mu­ni­ties of inter­est else­where in the Yaki­ma Val­ley, which increas­es its POC pop­u­la­tion to near­ly 80% and a strong 61% POC eli­gi­ble vot­ing pop­u­la­tion. This is a 4% increase in the POC eli­gi­ble vot­ing pop­u­la­tion of this dis­trict and links shared com­mu­ni­ties of inter­est across the Yaki­ma Val­ley for the first time in decades.

These demo­graph­ic changes have sub­stan­tial elec­toral impacts. 

The old 15th Dis­trict typ­i­cal­ly vot­ed Repub­li­can in both top-tick­et statewide con­tests and down-bal­lot leg­isla­tive con­tests. Demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and US Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell both lost the old 15th, and Demo­c­ra­t­ic Pres­i­dent Joe Biden only bare­ly best­ed for­mer Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump by few­er than 100 votes. 

Con­verse­ly, the new 14th District’s more diverse pop­u­la­tion typ­i­cal­ly votes for Democ­rats. Biden won the new 14th Dis­trict by dou­ble dig­its (57%-41%) in 2020, with Inslee win­ning by a sim­i­lar­ly large mar­gin. In 2018, a low­er-turnout midterm year, Cantwell also won by dou­ble dig­its (55%-45%).

So his­tor­i­cal­ly, Democ­rats eas­i­ly won this new major­i­ty-Lati­no 14th Dis­trict and would be a near auto­mat­ic pick­up for Democ­rats in 2024.

But it’s not as easy as it appears anymore. 

Demo­c­ra­t­ic U.S. Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray lost the new 14th Dis­trict in 2022 by a wide mar­gin (43%-57%). This comes after a siz­able evap­o­ra­tion in Lati­no Demo­c­ra­t­ic sup­port and Lati­no turnout in the 2022 midterms. This Lati­no Demo­c­ra­t­ic decrease is a part of a greater nation­al trend, with some 2024 polls show­ing Trump lead­ing Biden among Latinos.

To flip the 14th, Democ­rats must sub­stan­tial­ly increase their grass­roots pres­ence and fund­ing to the new 14th Dis­trict and its Lati­no and Native com­mu­ni­ties across Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton. Despite Sen­a­tor Murray’s strong 57%-43% statewide vic­to­ry, her 15% loss in this his­tor­i­cal­ly blue new dis­trict proves Democ­rats can­not take this dis­trict — name­ly, Lati­no sup­port — for granted.

The New Maps: Other Impacted Districts

The 14th and 15th Dis­tricts weren’t the only dis­tricts that were redrawn. 

To allow for a com­pli­ant Lati­no-oppor­tu­ni­ty dis­trict, sev­er­al oth­er dis­tricts changed. In fact, thir­teen of the state’s forty-nine leg­isla­tive dis­tricts were changed. Most of the impact­ed dis­tricts are sur­round­ing rur­al, heav­i­ly-Repub­li­can dis­tricts east of the Cas­cade Moun­tains. Gen­er­al­ly, these already-red dis­tricts got slight­ly redder. 

How­ev­er there are a few note­wor­thy shifts: the swingy 5th, 12th, and 17th Dis­tricts all became even more pur­ple. In par­tic­u­lar, the blue-lean­ing 5th LD got about 2% more Repub­li­can; the red-lean­ing 12th LD got 2% more Demo­c­ra­t­ic; and the red-tinged 17th LD got 1–2% more Democratic. 

The 5th LD has an all-Demo­c­ra­t­ic del­e­ga­tion to Olympia, and even with these changes, is like­ly to stay that way. This is because Democ­rats hold a con­sis­tent dou­ble-dig­it advan­tage since 2018 in this increas­ing­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic, afflu­ent sub­ur­ban and exur­ban dis­trict in King Coun­ty. Biden and Mur­ray both won here eas­i­ly in the new, red­der dis­trict, as would the two Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bent rep­re­sen­ta­tives Lisa Callan and Bill Ramos.

The old 12th LD is much more Repub­li­can than the 5th, with no major recent Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date win­ning the old ver­sion of this dis­trict. How­ev­er Biden won the new 12th LD in 2020 by a slim 50–47 mar­gin; Mur­ray only lost 48%-52% in 2022. Democ­rats did not con­test the dis­trict in 2022, but giv­en its new­ly-cement­ed pur­ple dis­trict sta­tus, Democ­rats should not just con­test but invest in flip­ping the 12th LD.

Final­ly the 17th LD — one of the swingi­est dis­tricts in Washington—got about 1.5% more Demo­c­ra­t­ic in this new map. While seem­ing­ly small, this change was enough to flip this dis­trict from a 49–51 Repub­li­can win to a 51%-49% Mur­ray win in the 2022 US Sen­ate race. While Democ­rats tend to per­form worse down­bal­lot, this mean­ing­ful left­ward shift in the new 17th gives Democ­rats an incred­i­ble oppor­tu­ni­ty to end the long­time all-Repub­li­can del­e­ga­tion from this Van­cou­ver-area sub­ur­ban district.

Effects on the State Legislature

While these changes may only net Democ­rats one new dis­trict out of 49, that one dis­trict could be sub­stan­tial. Cur­rent­ly, Democ­rats hold twen­ty-nine Sen­ate seats and fifty-eight House seats, out of forty-nine and nine­ty-eight total. Both cham­bers are a mere one seat short of a three-fifths Demo­c­ra­t­ic major­i­ty — thir­ty sen­a­tors and fifty-nine rep­re­sen­ta­tives. If Democ­rats can flip the 14th Dis­trict Sen­ate seat and just one House seat, they would unlock new leg­isla­tive pow­ers in Olympia relat­ing to fis­cal poli­cies around the bud­get, bonds, and the debt.

As I laid out, though, this new map could poten­tial­ly flip two oth­er dis­tricts: the 12th and 17th. Both of these Biden dis­tricts have all-Repub­li­can delegations. 

Flip­ping those seats on top of the 14th dis­trict would put Democ­rats at a 32–17 Sen­ate major­i­ty and 64–34 house major­i­ty — just one dis­trict short of the impor­tant two-thirds thresh­old. If Democ­rats addi­tion­al­ly flip, say, the 10th LD Sen­ate seat and both 26th LD House seats — both dis­tricts Biden won in 2020 and elect­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors in 2022— then Democ­rats could do many more things, like pass con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments and over­ride guber­na­to­r­i­al vetoes. The last time a par­ty held such a super­ma­jor­i­ty in both cham­bers was 1960, when Democ­rats held a 35–14 Sen­ate major­i­ty and 66–33 House majority.

Beyond the par­ti­san num­bers, though, this map could allow issues affect­ing Yaki­ma and Pas­co Lati­no com­mu­ni­ties to be brought front and cen­ter to leg­isla­tive cham­bers by Lati­no-elect­ed leg­is­la­tors for the first time. 

In 2025, there may be a del­e­ga­tion tru­ly fight­ing for labor rights for Lati­no agri­cul­tur­al work­ers, state resources for rur­al immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, and so many oth­er issues impact­ing com­mu­ni­ties of col­or east of the Cas­cades that too often get drowned out by East­ern Wash­ing­ton Repub­li­cans and West­ern Wash­ing­ton Democrats.

Fig­ures 1, 2, and par­ti­san vot­er index data were sourced from Dav­e’s Redis­trict­ing App, an excel­lent resource offered by NPI’s friend Dave Bradlee. 

About the author

Andrew Hong is a data science student at Stanford University and lifelong Washingtonian from South Seattle. He has previously worked as a campaign consultant, community organizer, statewide coordinator of Redistricting Justice for Washington, and currently serves as a Research Data Analyst at the Washington Community Alliance Data Hub.

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