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Eye On Boise

Theoretically, redistricting commissioners could cut House in half…

Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane briefs the Idaho redistricting commission at its first meeting on Tuesday. (Betsy Russell)
Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane briefs the Idaho redistricting commission at its first meeting on Tuesday. (Betsy Russell)

Brian Kane, deputy Idaho attorney general, is now briefing the redistricting commission on legal issues, from constitutional and statutory requirements for the redistricting process to complying with the Idaho Open Meeting Law and Idaho public records law. In response to a question from Commissioner George Moses about constitutional requirements, Kane said the commissioners, if they wanted to, could create a plan for 35 senators and 35 representatives - rather than 70 representatives as now. His comment prompted a moment of stunned silence. Then he added that historically, Idaho's always had two representatives per senator. The constitution allows between 30 and 35 senators, divided into districts, and no more than two representatives per senator; there are now 35 districts, each with one senator and two representatives.

Among the legal restrictions on those serving on the commission: They can't become a candidate while they're serving, or they're booted off; they can't serve on a redistricting commission more than once; and they can't run for the Idaho Legislature for the next five years. "You're at least letting us know that this small segment of the Idaho population won't be running for the Legislature for the next five years," Kane told the commissioners.

For a new legislative redistricting plan to pass legal muster with the courts, Kane explained, it must meet the one-person, one-vote rule within a 10 percent deviation (anything below that deviation is "presumptively" constitutional, under a 1984 Idaho Supreme Court case), with minimal splits of counties, per the Idaho Constitution. The law recognizes that it's impossible to create a redistricting plan for Idaho that doesn't split any counties, he noted. Other factors include preserving communities of interest and avoiding oddly shaped districts - though Idaho is an oddly shaped state. "You're not going to create a  plan with 35 square districts - it's just not going to happen," he said.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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