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January 2, 2012

Advocacy from Immigrant Community Reflected in New Majority-Minority District

With a New Year's Day deadline looming, the Washington State Redistricting Commission agreed to new district maps last night that clearly reflected advocacy by immigrant communities and communities of color. Commissioners unanimously agreed to final maps which include the creation of Washington's first majority-minority congressional district and a majority Latino legislative district in Yakima County which advocates have been fighting for since last spring.

OneAmerica joined with the United for Fair Representation coalition in early 2011 to create Unity Maps and turned out hundreds of immigrants and people of color who testified at nearly every redistricting hearing. The final maps respond to the reality that people of color now represent 1 out of 4 Washington residents and that the increase in these communities helped land Washington an additional congressional district. The new 9th Congressional District is just over one half minority at 50.3% and encompasses Southeast Seattle, Bellevue, North Tacoma and South King County. The final redistricting plan also establishes four majority-minority legislative districts – the 15th in Yakima County and the 11th, 33rd and 37th in south King County.

"We appreciate that Commissioners recognized the need for immigrant communities and communities of color, especially in King and Yakima Counties, to be genuinely involved in electing leaders that will help shape their futures," said OneAmerica Executive Director Pramila Jayapal.

The 15th Legislative District will serve an unprecedented 54.6% Latino majority population. Just how much of a Latino majority the 15th should get was a point of contention among Commissioners. In the end, a bipartisan compromise put the City of Yakima’s southeast and north central neighborhoods, both heavily Latino, into the 14th Legislative District. “While we are disappointed that backroom politics resulted in separating Latinos in southeast Yakima city from those in the lower Yakima valley, we will continue to fight for fair representation of all Latinos throughout Yakima and will maximize political opportunities in our new Latino majority legislative district,” said Lorena Gonzalez, OneAmerica Board Vice President.

"The work of our coalition is far from over - engaging in the redistricting process is critical, but not sufficient to ensure that everyone has fair representation," said George Cheung, executive director at the Win Win Network. "In the upcoming legislative session, we will be advocating for the passage of the Washington State Voting Rights Act. This historic piece of legislation will be an important legal tool for ensuring fair representation for all."

"Let the record show that in 2011 we stood up – Black, Brown, Asian Pacific Islander, Native Americans, more – and said in one unified voice that we will be represented, our voices will be heard, we will never again be taken for granted and we will fully participate in the electoral process," said Nate Miles, United for Fair Representation coalition member. "Now is the best opportunity for people of color to register and turn out to vote. Electoral races in these majority-minority districts are especially where our votes will have an impact."

Given the continued growth of people of color and immigrants - especially in King and Yakima counties - minority representation in these majority-minority districts will only increase over the coming years, further strengthening the voice of immigrant communities and communities of color.

Media

For more information or to arrange interviews, contact Charlie McAteer, OneAmerica Communications Director, 206-452-8402, charlie@weareoneamerica.org

About OneAmerica

OneAmerica, formerly Hate Free Zone, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that advances the fundamental principles of democracy and justice by building power within immigrant communities.

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