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Republicans ask SCOTUS to intervene in central WA redistricting fight

The sun rises behind the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, Oct. 11, 2022.
Alex Brandon, Associated Press
The sun rises behind the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, Oct. 11, 2022.

A group of conservative Latino voters is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to get involved with lawsuits over Washington’s 2021 political redistricting process.

They want the justices to change the outcome of two U.S. District Court cases related to the 15th Legislative District, a Latino voter-majority district in Central Washington.

In an August ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik sided with Latino voters who filed suit in January 2022 over the new boundaries of 15th District, saying it violated the federal Voting Rights Act. The plaintiffs of the case, Palmer vs. Hobbs, contend that while the district met the required percentage of voters to be a majority-Latino district, the bipartisan Washington State Redistricting Commission drew the district in a way that diluted their voting power. Lasnik set a January deadline for a new map to be drawn.

Latino Republicans, who intervened in the Palmer case, believed the ruling was flawed and accused the federal district court of entertaining a “partisan charade.” The group also wants the U.S. Supreme Court to address a separate request to resurrect a related case, Garcia vs. Hobbs, deemed moot by Lasnik in his ruling on Palmer.

The group, which includes State Sen. Alex Ybarra, R-Quincy, filed an appeal to the U.S. Courts of Appeals Ninth Circuit but is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review Palmer v. Hobbs before judgment there. Reviewing a case directly from a lower court has been historically rare, but the U.S. Supreme Court has granted more of these petitions in recent years.

The core argument is that the 15th District already has a majority-Latino voter population and elected a Latina — Republican Nikki Torres — to the state Senate in 2022, the only election held thus far under the current map. They say Palmer v. Hobbs aims to get Democrats elected in a conservative region.

“This litigation is a partisan’s playbook on how to use race as a proxy for political preference to persuade a court to redraw a district’s boundaries to favor one political party,” attorneys said in a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court.

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This story was originally published by Crosscut.