Hispanic leaders would challenge the City of Pasco’s new redistricting map

City of Pasco 2022 Redistricting Map. Credit: City of Pasco.


Hispanic leaders said they might sue the City of Pasco over its newly approved redistricting map. They insist the map dilutes the Latino vote. But council members insist the map complied with the Washington State Voting Rights Act requirements.

The Pasco City Council approved the new boundaries, with five votes in favor, during the Dec. 5  meeting. Councilmember Pete Serrano recused himself.

Gabriel Portugal, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, in Pasco, said during the meeting that new map boundaries do not satisfy the Washington Voting Rights Act.

“If you go back to this map, where you’re really interrupting or diluting the Latino voting power, (…) then we would be in a position that we would have no other course of action but to file a lawsuit against the city,” said Portugal.

Portugal said it’s not a step the organization wants to take. He said LULAC sent a map proposal to the city council that better complies with the Washington State Voting Act.

On behalf of LULAC, Portugal urged council members to work with other organizations involved in similar processes in Yakima and Franklin counties.

The main concerns community members expressed during public comment meetings included discrepancies between the 2020 U.S Census data and data Franklin County provided, a lack of transparency, and the inclusion of white population areas in the predominantly Hispanic district.

City Attorney Eric Ferguson said the process followed the available legal path.  He said the City of Pasco wanted to be involved in the process, but it faced a high-profile lawsuit. State law wouldn’t allow the city to participate, so they found a way through the federal system.

“I know there’s been some frustration with folks who feel like this process has been compacted in and condensed, and they didn’t get a chance to really have the kind of input they would like,” said Ferguson. “I do want folks to understand that, from a legal perspective, we didn’t have the same abilities and there was an enormous amount of effort that went into this.”

Still, citizens expressed their disagreement.

“This process has been going on for a very long time. And I think it causes an erosion of trust when, for a very long time, it was not a public process. It was a thing that was done in a vacuum, and this is a substantially changed map,” said Stephen Bauman, a constituent who spoke on Dec. 5.

Even though council members expressed frustration because of the limitations to get more public participation, they said they thought the final map complied with the law, including Mayor Pro-Tem Craig Maloney.

“I do feel like this process has given us a little bit of a bloody nose for the city,” said Maloney. “But through some very rigorous questioning that I’ve performed, and research that I’ve done, I am convinced at this point that the map meets the requirements of the law. And that is the key to what decision we have in front of us to make.”

Councilmember Zahra Roach said she agreed.

“According to (the) voting rights act is to make sure those districts are equal populations, that there are three majority-minority districts. I think those are being achieved in this current map that’s being displayed,” said Roach. “We have District 1, the percentage of Hispanic voting age at 76.3%, District 2 at 67.1%, and District 6at 76.3%.”.

Details about the districts distribution are on the City of Pasco 2022 redistricting memo

Roach said she understands council members do not ensure any outcome of an election but that the system and the process create equal representation.