As the 1981 legislative session opened, there were expectations that the bitter partisan redistricting
battles of previous decades would be avoided. Republicans held the majority in both the House and the
Senate and were able to pass a new redistricting bill within the constitutionally allotted time. The
Republican leadership, including the head of the redistricting effort, Representative Bob Eberle, did not
expect that a governor from their own party would veto a portion of the measure.
Governor John Spellman faced heavy opposition from all of Washington's congressional delegation over the
boundaries of the eight new congressional districts. The plan divided the population of several major
regions, counties, and cities, including Spokane, into different congressional districts. In addition, more
than two million Washington residents remained in their original districts but lost their former congressmen,
who were moved into new districts. In his veto message, Spellman chastised the Legislature: " This wholesale
disenfranchisement is neither necessary or desirable."
The governor accepted the revised legislative districts, but asked the leadership of the House and Senate
to work with congressman to remedy problems with the congressional districts before the next session.
Immediately after the governor delivered his message, the Republican Party went to court to certify the new
legislative boundaries so that elections could proceed in these districts.