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Redistricting challengers submit own map, dividing only six counties

The four Idaho counties that are suing to challenge Idaho's new legislative redistricting plan - which include Kootenai County - have drawn up and submitted to the Idaho Supreme Court their own version of a new legislative district plan, dividing just six counties, vs. the 11 divided by L-87, the plan developed by Idaho's bipartisan redistricting commission. Led by Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs, the group maintains that cities aren't “communities of interest,” and legislative districts should instead be drawn solely according to county lines and economic ties.

“Cities change constantly, they grow and they expand,” Loebs said, “whereas county borders are fixed and never change. So that's part of the problem with saying that cities are a community of interest.” He argues in the petition that L-87 violates the law by pairing, for example, portions of Twin Falls and Owyhee counties with Elmore County, when Twin Falls and Owyhee have “significant irrigation issues” that Elmore residents don't share. “The voice of the residents is diluted in the legislature by being combined with Elmore County, which could create very serious water issues in the future in those communities,” the petition argues.

The Idaho Supreme Court is reviewing the petition, and likely will set a briefing schedule today and determine which parties should submit legal briefs. However, with the timelines for such cases, oral arguments aren't likely until as late as January; click below for more on this from my Sunday column.


Sunday, Nov. 20 ~ The Spokesman-Review

Eye on Boise: 4 counties in lawsuit offer own district map

By Betsy Z. Russell

    BOISE - The four Idaho counties that are suing to challenge Idaho's new legislative redistricting plan - which include Kootenai County - have drawn up and submitted to the Idaho Supreme Court their own version of a new legislative district plan, dividing just six counties.
    Led by Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs, the group maintains that L-87, the plan that was adopted, impermissibly splits 11 counties. “Plan L87 disenfranchises these counties' citizens by gerrymandering these districts to eliminate the impact of the county electorate,” the petition to the Idaho Supreme Court declares.
    Not mentioned in the petition: That Idaho's bipartisan citizen redistricting commission drew its plan in part to keep cities together in legislative districts. Loebs said the Constitution doesn't mention cities. State law does, however, say, “to the maximum extent possible, districts shall preserve traditional neighborhoods and local communities of interest.”
    Loebs argues in the petition that L-87 violates that law by pairing, for example, portions of Twin Falls and Owyhee counties with Elmore County, when Twin Falls and Owyhee have “significant irrigation issues” that Elmore residents don't share. “The voice of the residents is diluted in the legislature by being combined with Elmore County, which could create very serious water issues in the future in those communities,” the petition argues.
    “Cities change constantly, they grow and they expand,” Loebs said, “whereas county borders are fixed and never change. So that's part of the problem with saying that cities are a community of interest.”
    The petition also argues that there's “no direct economic connection” between the 5,000 residents of Kootenai County who land in the new District 7 in  Plan L-87, along with all of Shoshone, Clearwater and Idaho counties.
    The new plan proposed in the legal challenge would have a population deviation between districts of 9 percent, compared 9.92 percent for Plan L-87. It would pair part of southern Bonner County with all of Shoshone, Clearwater and Idaho counties in a new District 3. It proposes no other county splits in North Idaho.
    The Idaho Supreme Court is reviewing the petition, and likely will set a briefing schedule and determine which parties should submit legal briefs on Monday. However, with the timelines for such cases, oral arguments aren't likely until as late as January.
    Idaho's next election - for which new legislative districts will be in effect - is its May 15, 2012 primary, with the filing period for candidates opening in March.
  


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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