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Photo of the framers of the Washington State Constitution Pre-1950s
Major Players:The Constitutional Framers, The Legislature, The Voters

As Washington evolved from territorial status toward statehood, a regular process of redistricting became the accepted means of ensuring fair and equal representation for residents. The framers of the Washington State Constitution set both a minimum and maximum number of legislators and mandated that the Legislature redistrict based on "the number of inhabitants" after each decennial census. At its first session, the Legislature consisted of 70 members of the House of Representatives and 35 senators, and in 1890 and again in 1901 members adjusted these numbers upward to match the state's population growth.

Few changes were made for the next thirty years, however, and by 1931 citizens complained that representation was badly apportioned. Debate raged over whether the voters could pass an initiative to remedy the situation if the Legislature did not act. The Washington attorney general said, "No," but the courts overturned his opinion and held that a popular initiative to shift district boundaries was constitutional. Twenty more years passed with little legislative action, so that by the 1950s another group of citizens, led by the League of Women Voters, proposed the use of the initiative process for redistricting.


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Introduction 1950s