“WA redistricting commission chair resigns after Democrats refuse to defend new maps “

From the Seattle Times:

The nonpartisan chair of Washington’s redistricting commission resigned Monday, lashing out at Democratic leaders for refusing to defend legislative maps drawn by the commission from a legal challenge.

Sarah Augustine announced her resignation at the end of a virtual meeting, after the panel’s two Democratic commissioners voted against intervening in a federal lawsuit alleging the maps violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

That lawsuit, filed in January, contends the final commission legislative map illegally dilutes the power of Latino voters in Central Washington by splitting them among multiple districts.

But the lawsuit named as defendants only three Democratic state officials: Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, state House Speaker Laurie Jinkins and state Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig — all of whom have refused to defend the maps, according to the commission.

Augustine cited that refusal in her resignation as the commission’s nonvoting chair, reading from a prepared statement just before the meeting adjourned.

“In any mediation, the parties have to commit to a good-faith effort, and that is not happening here,” Augustine said. “By failing to defend the redistricting plans agreed to by consensus, state authorities have chosen to undermine the process and dismiss the compromises taken in the public interest.”

Her comments came after the four voting commissioners split 2-2 on whether the panel should intervene as a defendant in the lawsuit. The vote fell on party lines, with Democratic commissioners Brady Walkinshaw and April Sims voting no and Republican commissioners Joe Fain and Paul Graves voting yes.

In a brief debate before the vote, Fain called the refusal of Democratic leaders to defend the compromise maps frustrating, and predicted it could lead the bipartisan structure of the state’s redistricting process to be “forever tarnished” by “partisan abuse.”

Sims said she remained proud of the compromise maps agreed to by the bipartisan panel but could not oppose the lawsuit brought on behalf of Latino voters in Central Washington.

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