A federal judge approved a new legislative map on Friday that will reshape voting districts across Central Washington.

The changes came after U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik ruled that the previous legislative districts violated the Voting Rights Act in August. His order this week directs the Washington Secretary of State to adopt the new maps to give the Latino community in the Yakima Valley a better opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

The new boundaries will affect every legislative district that touches Yakima County, and 10 others statewide. A new 14th District will include the Yakama Reservation, East Yakima, Toppenish, Wapato and parts of Pasco and Sunnyside. The 15th District stretches out across northern Yakima County toward the east to take in Prosser. The 13th District will no longer include Yakima County.

The lawsuit accumulated a lengthy list of plaintiffs, defendants and intervenors.

Plaintiffs include a host of Yakima Valley residents, including Susan Soto Palmer and Caty Padilla, executive director of Sunnyside-based nonprofit Nuestra Casa. Attorneys from the UCLA Voting Rights Project, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Campaign Legal Fund worked on the case.

State Rep. Alex Ibarra, R-Quincy, Sen. Nikki Torres, R-Pasco, and former Granger Mayor Jose Trevino are involved in the case on the other side.

The Yakama Nation also provided input on the new maps.

Plaintiffs pleased with the new boundaries

Plaintiffs praised the new map and said it could help Latinos in the Yakima Valley elect candidates to represent their community.

“It really gives Yakima Valley Latinos a chance for our voice to be heard,” Padilla, a plaintiff who testified in the case, said. “This allows us to organize around candidates of our choice who can represent us.”

Padilla said Latino communities in Toppenish and Wapato had been divided from East Yakima and other parts of the Yakima Valley. She sees the new map as an opportunity to connect with nearby communities about the same election.

“For me and a lot of our community, we work, live, play throughout the Yakima Valley,” Padilla said. “A district that keeps us all together is important because that is how we work and live.”

“The map was not drawn or adopted to favor or discriminate against either political party, but rather to unite the Latino community of interest in the Yakima Valley region,” he wrote.

Ben Phillips, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center who represented plaintiffs in the case, said having neighboring Lower Valley communities voting in the same elections and looking at the same candidates could increase engagement and turnout.

Latino voters in Central Washington have faced historic discrimination and racism that have decreased turnout, he added, and grouping nearby communities could overcome some of those challenges.

“The numbers don’t tell the whole story,” he said.

Other attorneys, like those with the UCLA Voting Rights Project who argued for a new map, praised the changes.

“This ruling is not just a victory for the Latino communities in Washington State, but it also sends hope to all underrepresented communities fighting for fair representation in the United States,” said Sonni Waknin, program manager and voting rights counsel at the UCLA VRP.


Torres, a Latina who was elected in the 15th District in 2022, blasted the decision on Friday. She called the changes a “mockery of the Voting Rights Act.”

“I can stay the next two years, but then I will be cut off from helping the constituents who I grew up with and who I love to serve,” she said in a statement.

Torres said she was moved to 16th District, which is currently represented by Republican Perry Dozier of Waitsburg.

She said Hispanics are a swing block of voters, and not uniformly Democrats.

 “This decision actually discriminates against eastern Washington Hispanics and assigns stereotypes given to them by their more liberal neighbors on the west side of the state,” she said.

State Sen. John Braun said the decision redistricts out Sen. Curtis King of Yakima, Sen. Brad Hawkins of Wenatchee and in all likelihood three Republican House members. He said no Democrats are redistricted out.

“This decision should be immediately stayed and deserves to be overturned by a higher court,” he said in a statement.


The district shuffle

The new voting boundaries affect 13 districts statewide.

Representatives from a few of the affected districts shared frustrations and questions about the future. State Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, will need to run in the new the 17th District, as opposed to the 14th District. Mosbrucker said she would be happy to serve in whatever district she ends up in, but is concerned how Torres was affected by the ruling.

“It’s frustrating to see other representatives move and have to run in other districts,” she said.


Mosbrucker added that she is waiting for more information, as well as to see if the new map might be appealed.

“I’m honored to serve,” Mosbrucker said. “I loved serving the 14th and I’d love to serve the 17th if that is the case.”

Her sentiments were echoed by fellow 14th District Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima, who said he plans to run for re-election regardless of which district he ends up in.

Corry spoke on Thursday, before the new maps were released, and said based on the possible maps presented that he believed he would be moved from the 14th to the 15th District.

“A lot of work I’ve done has helped Yakima County and the rest of the state,” Corry said on Thursday. “Obviously, there will be some new areas to get to know … but I’m committed to getting to know those new counties.”

Lasnik gave the state an opportunity to reconvene the redistricting commission to redraw the boundaries and comply with his August ruling, but Democratic lawmakers declined to call back the redistricting commission. The court employed a redistricting expert and sought to establish new boundaries in time for the 2024 election.