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New districts: ‘There wasn’t any other way to do that’

Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on today's adoption of new congressional district lines, with which Idaho's citizen redistricting commission wrapped up its task in less than three weeks and proved the commission process can work. Redistricters will formally deliver their new legislative and congressional plans to Secretary of State Ben Ysursa tomorrow.

Commission Co-Chairman Ron Beitelspacher said the new legislative district plan makes a point of keeping cities and towns intact in legislative districts. “That's in response to both sides,” he said. “A lot of rural people who attended the hearings didn't want their vote diluted by a city vote, so we have given them a clear voice that comes from where they are.” He and other commissioners said they didn't know where incumbents lived and didn't want to know; unlike earlier plans, this map doesn't pit Sens. Denton Darrington and Dean Cameron against each other, but Beitelspacher said that's because “that Snake River Canyon is like a giant divide - you don't have a lot of bridges across it. We tried to respect that without dividing counties, and we did it.”

Other plans also would have forced Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis of Idaho Falls to face off with other senators to keep his seat; this one doesn't. “Sheila Olsen determined where was the best place to draw the boundaries around Idaho Falls,” Beitelspacher said, “but if you look at it, it is a rectangle. We have no lines that go down to pick up a precinct and back up.”

As for the new legislative District 8, which includes five House incumbents - including House Speaker Lawerence Denney - Beitelspacher said it was just a matter of the population numbers. “You're really boxed in if you think you're going to play a bunch of political games,” he said.

Boise State University political scientist Gary Moncrief agreed. “Personally, I could see that one coming a long way off,” he said, “just because of the numbers. … There had to be a squeeze coming down past Grangeville somewhere, you had to squeeze what had been two districts into one, and you could see it was going to happen there in what now is District 8. … There wasn't any other way to do that.”


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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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