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1972 1981
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Governor Spellman signing bills The 1980s
Major Years:1981, 1982, 1983; Major Players:The Legislature, The Voters, Independent Redistricting Commission

Redistricting activity continued in the 1980s, but as legislators grew weary of the constant battles, they became more willing to relinquish their redistricting duties. Eventually, the Legislature agreed to experiment with a new process, hoping that the contentious atmosphere would begin to subside.

In 1981 legislators passed a redistricting bill, but saw their proposal for congressional redistricting vetoed by Governor John Spellman. The lawmakers tried again, but this time Everett residents went to court to stop the plan. In 1983 the courts ruled against the state in the case of Doph v. Munro and gave the Legislature ninety days to complete congressional redistricting.

Washington legislators were at a crossroads. They could continue the difficult task of redistricting or explore another option. In 1982, a bill that created an independent, bipartisan redistricting committee had passed, but this new body would not begin work until 1991. Faced with the 1983 court order to redistrict, members of the Legislature then voted to form a temporary congressional redistricting commission. They appointed five commissioners as the clock continued to tick away on the court's 90-day deadline. Despite the relatively short of amount of time available, the temporary redistricting commission developed an acceptable plan for new congressional districts.

This achievement was a revelation, not only to members of state government, but also to Washington citizens. The 1983 Legislature passed a new version of the 1982 bill, which established an independent, bipartisan redistricting commission. A measure to amend the State Constitution and institute the commission was placed on the November ballot and subsequently approved by the voters. Washington became the third state in the union to redistrict by commission, but the true test of the concept would not come until 1991, when the first commissioners were slated to assemble.


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Read Don Eldridge: An Oral History
1972 1981