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The 1950s: 1956

The Passage of Initiative 199

Washington faced a major redistricting battle in 1956. The League of Women Voters challenged legislative prerogative by developing its own redistricting measure, Initiative 199.

What prompted the League to tackle this issue? The most obvious reason was that redistricting was long overdue. The League's initiative was a remedy for legislative inaction, but also recognized the more complicated reality of America's new demographics. As the 1950s progressed, it had become increasingly clear that the population shift underway in Washington mirrored the situation nationwide. The growth of cities and suburbs far outpaced rural areas, yet representation in legislative bodies had not changed proportionally.

Many community groups endorsed Initiative 199, although it was not without its critics. Less populated counties feared a loss of power and the inability to protect the interests of farmers and other rural constituents. Opponents filed suit, and although a lower court declared the initiative invalid, the State Supreme Court in a unanimous decision allowed the measure to be placed on the ballot. In the November election Initiative 199 passed by more than 25,000 votes.


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