FILE - Washington State Voting

A person drops their ballot in a drop box near the University of Washington campus, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Seattle. Washington is a vote-by-mail state, but ballots can also be deposited at drop boxes, which opened this week in the Seattle area. 

(The Center Square) – One commissioner of the Washington Redistricting Commission (WRC) deliberately ran out the clock in a bid to get maps more favorable to Democrats from the Washington State Supreme Court, The Washington Observer reported regarding the WRC's failure to meet its statutory deadline in drawing legislative and congressional districts.

Because the commission missed its Monday 11:59 p.m. legal cutoff, that task now shifts to the state Supreme Court, which has until April 30, 2022, to finish the job.

Five of the nine high court justices were appointed to open seats by Democratic Washington state governors — two by former Gov. Christine Gregoire and three by current Gov. Jay Inslee.

The Thursday morning Observer story came out at about the same time members of the WRC were taking part in an hour-long virtual press conference.

“Commissioner Brady Walkinshaw, acting on behalf of Senate leadership, repeatedly gummed up the end-game negotiations with last-minute demands and gambits, sources tell the Observer,” the story stated. “That led to a vote on a tentative plan just before midnight on Nov. 15. Crucially, the vote to submit the plan to the Legislature happened a few minutes later, early on Nov. 16, past the deadline in state law.”

An email seeking comment from Walkinshaw was not returned by press time.

It was unclear whether members of the WRC were aware of the story during the hour-long press conference.

The four voting commissioners are Democrats Walkinshaw and April Sims, and Republicans Joe Fain and Paul Graves. The fifth nonvoting member of the WRC is bipartisan chair Sarah Augustine.

“I would say, lastly, that these maps are legitimate, and that any statements to suggest otherwise are a calculated attempt to undermine our democratic process,” Sims said in her closing statement at the press conference. “Planting seeds of doubt about our maps deteriorates trust in our democratic institutions and the norms that we as a country hold so dear, and we must vigilantly guard against this.”

The WRC released a statement online Tuesday night announcing an agreement on maps – albeit after the legally-mandated deadline – it said had been sent to the Supreme Court for consideration.

“The plan won the consensus of the voting members of the Commission but were not completed in the time prescribed by law thereby giving jurisdiction over the process and its outcome to the (state Supreme) Court," the commission tweeted. 

“While we acknowledge we missed the deadline for our maps to be considered by the LEG, we see no reason why the Court can’t do so,” Augustine said in a statement. “These maps reflect the input of thousands of people who took part in the process with us. It would be a shame to see these maps go unconsidered simply because the clock struck 12.”

At the press conference, commissioners expressed disappointment with the fact they weren’t able to complete their work on time.

"It was chaos, as you could tell," Graves said of the last-ditch effort Monday night to reach a deal. "We were all tired. We were, toward the end, very close to negotiating an agreement that we could then turn into the actual maps themselves."

“I do genuinely regret that we were not able to submit the maps by the deadline,” Walkinshaw said, noting a number of factors that impacted the commission, including a delay in the census count, COVID-19 restrictions, and the moving up of the commission’s deadline to November 15 from the end of year thanks to a constitutional amendment passed by voters in November 2016.

Washington state’s voting districts are redrawn every 10 years based on regional population changes tracked by the census.

“At the end of the day, the work got done, and don’t call me in 10 years,” Fain joked.

Staff Reporter

Brett Davis reports on Washington state government for The Center Square. He previously worked for public policy organizations the Freedom Foundation and Washington Farm Bureau, as well as various community newspapers.