History of Redistricting

The Constitution of the United States allows each state to determine its own processes for redistricting within certain bounds.  Washington is one of only seven states that redistricts by commission. Our representation has changed a lot since 1890. Read about the history of redistricting below.

1890: Legislature passed a redistricting bill creating 34 single-member senatorial districts and 49 representative districts, which contained from one to three representatives, depending on the population of the district, for a total of 78 representatives.  (Effective date: September, 1890)

1899: Legislature passed a bill creating Ferry County.  It was included in the 2nd senatorial district and constituted the 50th representative district.  (C 18 L99) Legislature passed a bill creating Chelan County. It was included in the 1st senatorial district and constituted the 51st representative district.  (C 95 L 99)

1901: Legislature passed a redistricting and reapportionment act creating42 single-member senatorial districts and 56 representative districts, which contained from one to three representatives, depending on the population of the district, for a total of 95 representatives.  (C 60 L 01– Effective date:  January, 1903) (This act was vetoed by the Governor on March 4, 1901, and returned to the Senate.  The act was passed over the Governor’s veto on March 4, 1901 by the Senate, and on March 6, 1901 by the House of Representatives.)

1905: Legislature passed a bill creating Benton County. It was included in the 15th senatorial district and constituted the 57th (later the 58th) representative district. (C 89 L 05)  (In 1911, the 57th representative district was changed to the 58th representative district.  Remington and Ballinger’s Code, Sec. 6883.)

1907: Legislature divided Chehalis County and named the new portion Grays Harbor County.  It was included in the 21st senatorial district and became the 30th representative district.  (C 47 L 07) Later, however, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that this action was unconstitutional.

1909: Legislature passed a bill creating Grant County.  It was included in the 1st senatorial district and constituted the 58th (59th) representative district.  (C17 L 09)  (In 1911, the 58th representative district was changed to the 59th representative district.  Remington and Ballinger’s Code, Sec. 6883.) Legislature passed four redistricting bills which made boundary changes in the 7th, 8th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 32nd and 36th senatorial districts and the 8th, 9th, 35th, 36th, 37th, 38th, 39th, 42nd, 46th, 53rd and 54th representative districts.  (C103 L 09) (C 107 L 09) (C 178 L 09) (C 187 L 09)

1911: Legislature passed a bill creating Pend Oreille County. It was included in the 2nd senatorial district and constituted the 60th representative district. (C 28 L11)

1915: Legislature passed a bill changing the name of Chehalis County to Grays Harbor County.  (C 77 L 15)

1921: Legislature passed two redistricting bills which made boundary changes in the 4th, 5th, and 7th senatorial districts and the 3rd, 4th, and 6th representative districts. (C 47 L 21) (C 167 L 21)

1923: Legislature passed a redistricting bill which made boundary changes in the 3rd and 4th senatorial districts and the 2nd and 3rd representative districts.  (C 91 L 23) 1925 Legislature passed a bill changing the spelling of Clarke County to “Clark County.” (C 51 L 25)

1927: Legislature passed a redistricting bill which made boundary changes in the 31st and 32nd senatorial districts and the 41st and 42nd representative districts.  (C 221 L 27) Legislature repealed an 1890 act which prescribed the number of senators and representatives; provided for their election and for the apportionment of the state into senatorial and representative districts.  (C 127 L 27)

1929: Legislature repealed C 178 L 09 which made boundary changes in the 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, and 29th senatorial districts and the 35th, 36th, 37th, 38th and 39th representative districts.  (C 22 L29)

1930: People redistricted by Initiative 57.  State Supreme Court upheld the use of the initiative process for redistricting.  The initiative provided an increase of senators from 42 to 46 and representatives from 97 to 99. Other changes were:  (1) representative districts were made the same as senatorial districts; (2) each district had a minimum of two representatives; and (3) county lines were used primarily as boundaries for districts. (C 2 L 31– Effective date:  January,1931)

1933: Legislature passed two redistricting bills which made changes in boundaries of the 9th and 10th districts and the 4th and 5th districts.  (C 20 L 33; C 74 L 33)

1956: People redistricted by Initiative 199. The initiative provided for 49 senate members from each of 49 districts.  The house consisted of 99 members; two from each of the 49 districts and one additional member from the 31st district. (C 5 L 57)

1957: Legislature amended people’s Initiative 199. (Initiatives may be amended by 2/3 vote of both houses of the legislature.)  State Supreme Court upheld amendments. Amendments did not change the number of districts; only made boundary changes.  (C 289 L 57–Effective date:  January, 1957)

March 1962: U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Baker v. Carr that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides basis for legal action on malapportionment.

July 1962: Initiative 211, a redistricting measure, certified for the November ballot after required number of signatures filed with Secretary of State.

August 1962: Thigpen v. Meyers filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.  Plaintiff sought relief formal apportionment. Court postponed hearing until after November election when people cast vote on Initiative 211.

November 1962: Initiative 211 defeated at polls – 396,419 FOR; 441,085 AGAINST.

December 1962: The U.S. District Court heard case of Thigpen v. Meyers and ruled that “existing apportionment of the Washington Legislature is invidiously discriminatory.” Court deferred final action until after 1963 legislature met “to afford it the opportunity of discharging constitutional mandate.”

April 1963: Legislature adjourned, after a 60-day regular session and a 23-day extraordinary session, without passing a redistricting bill.

May 1963: The U.S. District Court declared existing legislative districts null and void, enjoined Secretary of State (defendant) from conducting elections from existing districts.

July 1963: Secretary of State appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and petitioned for a stay of the District Court’s judgment, pending appeal.

February 1964: The U.S. Supreme Court granted stay of proceedings in case of Thigpen v. Meyers pending appeal–in effect, restoring existing districts.

June 15, 1964: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Reynolds v. Sims that both houses of state legislature must be apportioned on the basis of population.

June 22, 1964: The U.S. Supreme Court rejected state’s appeal in Thigpen v. Meyers thus upholding the judgment of the District Court.

October 1964: The District Court ordered legislature to enact a constitutional reapportionment as its first order of business in the 1965 regular session.  Court retained jurisdiction in order to examine any apportionment enacted by the legislature.

1965: In compliance with the order of the U.S. District Court in October 1964, the legislature could not pass any legislation until it had passed are districting bill.

1965: Forty-seven days after convening, the legislature passed are districting and reapportionment act creating 49 senatorial districts with one member elected from each district; 56 legislative districts with two representatives elected from each of 41 districts, three representatives from one district (District 42), and one from each of the remaining 14 districts (which were actually seven A-B districts), for a total of 99 representatives. (C 6 L 65–Effective date: February, 1965)

May 1971: Legislature adjourned, after a 60-day regular session and a 60-day extraordinary session, without passing a redistricting bill.

July 1971: Prince v. Kramer, et. al, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.  Plaintiff sought legislative and congressional redistricting of the state.

August 1971: The U.S. District Court declared 1965 redistricting laws unconstitutional and invalid.  The order also enjoined the defendants (Washington State and King County election officials) from conducting any further elections under the 1965 law.

September 1971: The U.S. District Court ordered that unless the legislature shall have enacted a redistricting bill on or before February 25, 1972, the court would order the redistricting of the state.

February 1972: Legislature adjourned without passing a redistricting bill.

April 1972: The U.S. District Court established legislative district boundaries for the state in Prince v. Kramer, et. al, Civil Order No. 9668.  (Effective date: April 21, 1972)

1974: Legislature passed a redistricting bill which made boundary changes in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 13th, 14th, 23rd, 26th and 27th districts. (C 123 L 74 1st Ex. S.)

1981: Legislature passed a redistricting plan composed of 51 legislative districts.  Four of the districts, 19-A, 19-B, 39-A, and 39-B were single-member representative districts and the remainder were multi-member representative districts each electing two representatives. All legislative districts were single-member senate districts, except that 19-A and 19-B were combined to form the 19th senatorial district and 39-A and 39-B were combined to form the 39th senatorial district.  (C 288 L 81–Effective date: May 18, 1981). Governor Spellman accepted the revised legislative districts, but rejected the congressional district plan.

1982: A new congressional plan was passed. The measure also established an independent and bipartisan redistricting commission to begin in 1991.(C 2 L 82–Effective date: February 17, 1982). The entire bill was struck down by U.S. District Court’s order in Doph ,et. al, v. Munro, but the legislature was granted the first 90 days of the 1983 session to draft a new plan.

1983: A temporary citizen panel was established to redraw the congressional district boundaries as required by the Court’s order in Doph. Additionally, a new independent bipartisan redistricting commission was established in law and the State Constitution and charged with both legislative and congressional redistricting. The legislature was given limited modification authority of any commission approved plan. (C16 L 83 and Amendment 74 to the Washington State Constitution–Effective date:  November 8, 1983)

1984: Legislature passed modifications to the 1983 Redistricting Act which made technical corrections and included language inadvertently omitted from the earlier act.  (C13 L 84–Effective date:  June 7, 1984)

1991-1992: The first bipartisan redistricting commission authorized by the 1983 constitutional amendment was appointed in January 1991.  After public hearings, the commission prepared a redistricting plan for legislative and congressional districts.  The plan was officially submitted to the legislature on January 1, 1992.  The 1992 legislature made only technical changes in the congressional plan (SCR8421).  The 30-day period in which the legislature could amend the commission’s plan expired on February 11, 1992 and the plan became the state’s districting law.  (Legislative district plan codified as Chapter 44.07C RCW; congressional district plan codified as Chapter 29.69B RCW– Effective date: February 11, 1992.)

1995: A new statutory deadline was established mandating that the decennial redistricting plan be adopted by the commission by December 15 of each year ending in 1 (SSB5764, C 88, L 95).

2001-2002: Pursuant to Chapter 44.05.030 RCW, the decennial redistricting commission was appointed in January2001. After public hearings, the commission prepared a redistricting plan for legislative and congressional districts.  The legislative portion was adopted by the statutory deadline of December 15, 2001. The congressional portion was adopted by the constitutional deadline of January 1, 2002. Each portion was submitted to the legislature after each was adopted. The 2002 legislature subsequently adopted legislation retroactively changing the statutory deadline for the submission of redistricting plans to January 1 of each year ending in two (SB6296; C 4 L 02).  The 2002 legislature also made minor amendments to the legislative plan (SCR8429, SCR8430) affecting the 7th & 12th, 27th & 28th and 18th & 49th districts. Although the 30-day period in which the legislature could have amended the commission plan would have expired on February 12, 2002, the legislative and congressional plan became the state’s districting law on February 8, 2002, the effective dates of the amendatory resolutions.(Legislative district plan codified as Chapter 44.07D RCW; congressional district plan codified as Chapter 29A.76A RCW.)

2011-2012: Pursuant to Chapter44.05.030 RCW, the decennial redistricting commission was appointed in January 2011. After public hearings, the commission prepared a redistricting plan for legislative and congressional districts which were submitted January 1, 2012. The 2012 Legislature amended the plan as proscribed by law (EHCR4409; Chapter 2011 c60 §41) and adopted the plan as amended on February 1, 2012 (Legislative: 44.07E, RCW. Congressional: 29A.76B, RCW)

2016: A new constitutional deadline was passed by the voters mandating that the decennial redistricting plan be adopted by the commission by November 15 of each year ending in 1. (Amendment 108, 2016 Senate Joint Resolution No. 8210. Approved November 8, 2016.)

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