Among the many things that make Washington a more enlightened place to live than, say, Texas or Alabama, there are two pro-democracy statutes that stand out. One is the law that took the drawing of political districts out of the hands of partisan legislators and gave the job to a bipartisan commission. The other is the Open Meetings Act, which prohibits public officials from doing their work secretly in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms.

Unfortunately, those two pieces of good governance were abused recently when the people entrusted with the former violated the latter.

This year, the four-member redistricting commission had the tough task of drawing new boundaries for the state’s legislative and congressional districts based on the 2020 census. The census numbers came in late, which complicated the job and, as the deadline loomed, there was still some hard bargaining to be done. Under the rules, those deliberations were supposed to be open to the public. There is a loophole, however. If there is no quorum present, then a meeting is not official and the “unofficial” discussions can be taken behind closed doors.

So, in their final session, after taking the roll call and finding all present, the four commissioners — two Republicans and two Democrats — proceeded to pair off and disappear into two separate meetings; a too-clever-by-half means of avoiding a quorum. After that evasion, the commission announced the work was done and the deadline had been met. It turned out that was a big fib and, as dictated by statute, the final drawing of lines has now been passed to the state Supreme Court.

This evasion and shiftiness in a process that is supposed to reek of rectitude is an embarrassment for the state. Nevertheless, it is a minor sin compared to the blatant gerrymandering and racial bias that is rampant in so many other states where majority party legislators are drawing new district lines with no interest in mind other than preserving their own power.

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