Eye On Boise

Dems say road law for legislative districts violates Idaho Constitution

Map showing how many county lines in Idaho aren't crossed by highways
Map showing how many county lines in Idaho aren't crossed by highways

Here's the map that Democratic redistricting Commissioner George Moses displayed to the bipartisan citizen redistricting commission today showing 24 counties in Idaho that have borders with adjoining counties that aren't crossed by a state or federal highway. He and the other Democratic commissioners contend that following a state law requiring legislative districts to be connected by highways, which is coming into play in this year's redistricting process for the first time, would mean unnecessarily dividing counties, violating a provision of the Idaho Constitution; click below for their full statement.

For Immediate Release        
Date: 7/25/2011

Democratic Commissioners challenge redistricting statute

BOISE—Today, Redistricting Commissioner George Moses attacked a recently enacted redistricting law as unconstitutional and contributing to regional differences in Idaho.  “If I was looking for a measure to add to the ‘Balkanization’ of Idaho, this one would be way up my list,” he said.

“We’ve discovered significant regional differences in the course of our hearings in Idaho,” Moses said. “Our work should be to help to bridge those differences, not to accent them.”

The law states that in order to combine two counties into a legislative district, they must be joined by a state or federal highway.

The commission was presented with maps that showed twenty county boundaries in the state that the law would prevent from being joined in a district.  The twenty-four counties affected are more than half the counties in Idaho and more than half of all the area of the state.

The Idaho Constitution requires that any legislative plan divide a minimum number of counties.  Moses stated that any line drawn under the law’s restrictions will split more counties than maps drawn without them.  Thus, the law supersedes the constitutional requirements.  It amounts to amending the constitution by statute, something the constitution itself does not permit.

“Constitutions are there to protect us from abuses of government authority.  In this case, the legislature exceeded its authority to regulate the Citizens’ Commission, severely hamstringing its efforts to perform its constitutional duty.  That can’t be permitted to stand unchallenged.”

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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