(The Center Square) – The Yakama Nation and Redistricting Justice for Washington (RJW) are not on the same page when it comes to litigation over Washington state’s new legislative and congressional maps, according to emails obtained by The Center Square via a public records request.
In an email exchange between RJW statewide coordinator Andrew Hong and Yakama Nation staff attorney Anthony Aronica, Aronica makes it clear that Hong’s organization does not officially speak for the recognized tribe. by the federal government whose reserve is located on the east side of the Cascade. Southern Washington Mountains.
“I am contacting you because our coalition is preparing to file a lawsuit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act against the newly enacted state legislative district lines in Yakima County, and we want to meet with you and the Tribal Council to discuss the lawsuit and your preferred outcomes“, Hong wrote to Yakama Nation lobbyist Dawn Vyvyan in an April 11 email.
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act allows voters to seek legal relief if they believe a state or local government has denied or limited their right to vote because of their race, color or their belonging to a minority language group.
“We are filing this lawsuit because the new LD [legislative district] lines in Yakima County violate the Voting Rights Act and discriminate against the voting rights of Latino and Indigenous voters in Yakima,” Hong continued. “Specifically, in an area where people of color make up more than three-quarters of the population, LD lines were drawn to prevent Latino and Indigenous voters from electing a candidate of their choice to the state legislature. Our lawsuit, in tandem with the lawsuit brought by the South Central WA Redistricting Coalition, will challenge these racist maps and ensure that Latino and Indigenous communities in Yakima will be able to consistently elect candidates from their communities to Olympia.
Hong responded by email the next day.
“This is a formal notice that the Yakama Nation opposes the Palmer vs. Hobbs litigation and your written statement below on the advocacy of the leaders of the Yakama Nation in an official capacity is inconsistent with the position of the Yakama Nation,” he said.
“Because of this objection, the Tribal Council Legislative Committee is unavailable to discuss the lawsuits voiding the February 8, 2022 legislative districts. I will forward any additional written material on this or any other matter that your organization prepares for review by tribal leaders. »
On its website, RJW claims to “bring together voices from across the state to hold the Redistricting Commission accountable to communities of color and tribal nations.” Although at least one of these tribal nations has now officially rejected the association.
The lawsuit in question was filed in January by a group of Latino voters and civil rights organizations alleging violations of federal voting rights law and a deliberate dilution of the influence of Latino voters in the new 15th Legislative District of the Yakima Valley.
On Thursday, US District Judge Robert Lasnik signed a Ordered refusing a request to prevent the use of the cards in the current election cycle, on the grounds that it is too close to the 2022 election to prohibit the use of the plan.
The new political map of Washington is the subject of another legal challenge filed last month in US District Court. The lawsuit argues that the new 15th district is unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. The lawsuit alleges the 15th Precinct was drawn so that just over half of its voting-age citizens are Latinos, for no compelling reason.
In February, the Washington Redistricting Commission settled two lawsuits brought by government transparency groups by admitting its members violated the state’s open public meeting law and paying fines and legal costs of more than $137. $000.
Last year, the committee lack to approve new legislative and congressional maps within legal deadlines, leaving it up to the state Supreme Court to decide how to respond. The high court ended accepting committee cards.