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.