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New Washington voting districts will stand for 2012

Thu., March 15, 2012

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

Whether those districts were improperly drawn, as one critic contends, and need to be adjusted before the 2014 elections 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 newly drawn districts are the ones that determine which races voters cast ballots in, and where candidates run.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, Washington’s top elections official, called the ruling “very good news,” especially for counties 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 10th congressional district based on the 2010 census results. 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 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 defining the basic facts of the case. If they can’t agree, a Thurston County Superior Court judge might need to step in and report to the high court by May 29.

That’s too late for Washington’s candidate filing week, which runs from May 14 to 18, for the primary that has ballots going into the mail in July.

“Our 2012 elections season is barreling down on us,” Reed said.

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