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Testimony: Changes proposed for legislative districts 1, 2

Among other testimony at today's public hearing on redistricting in Sandpoint: Mike Keough, husband of state Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, delivered a letter from his wife, who's at a JFAC meeting today. "She's pleased that you have given the people in the area the opportunity to visit with you face to face as you chart our political structure for the next 10 years," he told the redistricting commissioners. In her letter, Keough said she favors adding all of Clark Fork, Priest River and Oldtown back into District 1, where they were before the last redistricting a decade ago. She said she backs the rest of Bonner County remaining in District 2, joining northern Kootenai County; Shoshone and Benewah counties, which now are joined to Bonner in District 2, should be in another, more connected district, she suggested.

Dennis Engelhardt, a former GOP legislative candidate from Sagle, urged the commission not to trim down Idaho's legislative districts to fewer than 35, though the law lets the number drop as low as 30. "Many people I've talked to up here are opposed to lowering to 30 or anything less than it was now," he  told redistricters. "You would deprive your people of representation."

Byron Lewis of Clark Fork asked the commission to return his area to District 1. "It is important to me that I am allowed to go to the same polling place as my neighbor," he said. "As it stands now, I can't do that." He added, "Because of the way the lines were drawn, some folks may have decided not to vote. Some folks ... chose to use the absentee ballot." From homes in his area, the polls might best have been accessed "by boat, and then walk 2 miles to the polling place," he noted. Commission Co-Chairman Evan Frasure of Pocatello thanked Lewis for his testimony and said it shows how helpful it can be for the commissioners to hear directly from people who know their areas. Lewis' desire to have Clark Fork all in one district - District 1 -  "makes a ton of sense to this commissioner, at least," Frasure 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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