PASCO — Franklin County expects to have a plan for its new county commissioner districts by Nov. 8.
Attorneys for Franklin County and three local members of the League of United Latin American Citizens agreed to the deadline during a brief court hearing Monday.
Superior Court Judge David Petersen signed off on the agreement.
“I appreciate the extensive analysis that went into the motion,” he said.
The agreement came after Franklin County attorneys agreed the system to elect county commissioners and district boundaries shut Latinos out of picking candidates to represent them.
The agreement gives the two sides about two months to redraw the districts and create a system that doesn’t violate state and federal voting laws.
The method for how that would be handled hasn’t been hammered out. The commissioners created a redistricting committee earlier in the year, but they haven’t met because of the court case.
If they aren’t able to come to an agreement before Nov. 8, both sides are going to submit maps to a Franklin County Superior Court judge. Then the judge will get to decide on the new map.
Both sides said they want to have a new district map and voting system in place before Jan. 15, 2022. That would require new elections for the commissioners in November 2022.
While Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier has promised to challenge the constitutionality of the Washington Voting Rights Act as part of the case, there was nothing filed as of Monday.
The county will need to find a solution to two problems. The first is the need to end an at-large voting system for commissioners in the general election.
The current system has voters in the individual districts pick the candidates in the primary, but the entire county elects the commissioners.
That ends up diluting the votes of Latinos who make up slightly more than half of the county’s population, and between a third to a half of the voting age population.
Census data also shows most of the precincts in Pasco east of Highway 395 are 70% to 90% Latino.
When attorneys from both sides looked at those districts they found they voted differently than the majority white districts.
The second issue will be grouping those majority Latino precincts together in a single commissioner district.
Right now, voters in those areas are split among the three commissioner districts.