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,
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
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.