Democrat Gerrymandering in the 15th Legislative District

A sham lawsuit threatens to disenfranchise WA’s Latino voters

 

In 2021 our state’s bipartisan, voter-created Redistricting Commission set Washington’s current legislative and congressional boundaries.

In August, a federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Soto Palmer v. Hobbs, who claimed the map of Central Washington’s 15th Legislative District violates the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA). The judge ordered the boundaries to be redrawn.

Under state law, legislators can reconvene the commission at any time should district boundaries need adjusting. Instead, special-interest groups, with the help of local activists, are trying to circumvent that process to achieve a predetermined political outcome.

On Dec. 1, the plaintiffs proposed five maps to the court. Four move Eastern Washington’s first Latina senator, Republican Nikki Torres of Pasco, out of her district into the adjacent 16th Legislative District. The fifth map would keep her in her district but slash her proportion of Latino constituents — now 73% — down to 47%.

The plaintiffs make the unfathomable claim that a Latina’s election proves her ethnic community was discriminated against under the terms of the VRA. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, the VRA has never been twisted in such a way.

As a young girl, Sen. Torres woke before daybreak to pick fruit alongside her parents in Central and Eastern Washington. As a single mom, she struggled to get an education and achieve her American Dream. Family, hard work and education helped her exceed the expectations of those who told her she would never amount to much because of who she is and where she came from.

Sen. Torres should be proud. She has achieved so much already and is doing an outstanding job representing her constituents. She understands their struggles because they are her struggles.

Now, after being overwhelmingly chosen to represent her community, she is faced with this politically motivated push to take her job and diminish her worth.

While five registered Latino voters in the 14th and 15th legislative districts are listed as the plaintiffs, the lawsuit is clearly part of a national movement to politicize redistricting and weaponize the VRA to elect more Democrats from court-gerrymandered districts.

A prominent actor behind this lawsuit and the accompanying national strategy is Matt Barreto, with the UCLA Voting Rights Project.

Besides close ties to President Joe Biden’s political operation, Barreto claims in his online bio to have had a pivotal role in VRA challenges in other states, including Texas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

His organization and similar outside groups, with strong ties to the state and national Democratic parties, are the ones working hardest — behind the local plaintiffs — to challenge Washington’s bipartisan redistricting process.

Why would special interests attack a Latina senator in the name of helping her Latino constituents?

The plaintiffs’ proposed maps make the answer clear. They would cause the Yakima Valley district to go from having a 1.4% Republican advantage margin to margins that range from 10.2% to 11.1% in Democrats’ favor.

While such a radical shift would give the Democratic Party a major advantage, these proposed maps do nothing to strengthen the voice of the Hispanic community. Two maps would expand the Latino population by only 0.15% compared to the current district, which already has the state’s largest Latino population. The other three maps would, unbelievably, decrease the percentage of Latinos.

The real goal is clearly to have a court transform what is now a “swing” district in Central Washington — one either party could win — into a solidly Democratic-leaning district that guarantees the current Democratic legislative majority another vote in Olympia.

This outrageous scheme would violate U.S. Supreme Court standards, which require that replacement maps make only the minimum changes needed to fix a VRA violation.

A better solution is for the Legislature to call itself back into session immediately and reconvene the state’s Redistricting Commission. Even though the regular session is scheduled to start Jan. 8, this is an urgent matter that can be taken care of quickly. Let the commission fix any compliance issues with a bipartisan solution that is fair and transparent.

Anything less will disenfranchise the people of Sen. Torres’ district, harm Eastern Washington’s Latino community and put politics ahead of people.

 
 

Sen. Nikki Torres, 15th LD

Current Senator for the 15th Legislative District is Sen. Nikki Torres, R-Pasco.