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New districts good, at least for now

OLYMPIA--Washington voters will choose candidates this fall for the congressional and legislative districts approved this year by a special commission, the state Supreme Court said Wednesday.

Whether those districts will need to be adjusted before the 2014 elections, based on a challenge that they were improperly drawn, remains to be seen. But with the filing deadline for candidates only about two months away, the court said that for 2012, at least, the districts are the ones that determine where voters live, and where candidates run.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, Washington's top elections official, called the ruling "very good news" especially for counties which are scrambling to adjust their voting precincts to comply with the new districts.

The Redistricting Commission finished its work on Jan. 1 of redrawing all the state's legislative districts and adding a tenth congressional district based on the 2010 Census results, and the Legislature approved those districts on Feb. 7. John Milem, a Vancouver citizen who attended almost every meeting of the commission and submitted his own sets of legislative and congressional boundaries, filed a challenge to the new maps on Feb. 8, saying the new districts divide too many cities and counties and reduce competition rather than encourage it.

The Supreme Court said it will consider the challenge, but Milem and the state attorney general's office still have some groundwork to do on setting up the basic facts of the case, and if they can't agree, they may need a Thurston County Superior Court judge to step in, and report back to the high court by May 29.

That's too late for Washington's candidate filing week, which runs from May 14 to 18. Ballots for the state primary go in the mail in July.

"Our 2012 elections season is barrelling down on us," Reed said.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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