Eye On Boise

MONDAY, OCT. 17, 2011, 8:43 A.M.

Redistricters back at work on congressional district lines…

Idaho's citizen redistricting commission gathers on Monday morning. (Betsy Russell)
Idaho's citizen redistricting commission gathers on Monday morning. (Betsy Russell)

Idaho's bipartisan citizen redistricting commission is jovial this morning; Democratic Commissioner Shawneen Grange brought her fellow commissioners flowers, while GOP Commissioner Sheila Olsen brought them trinkets from the Capitol gift shop. "I just couldn't resist," she said. "It was in the gift shop downstairs, so I was supporting the capitol renovation."

Commissioner Randy Hansen noted that his hometown paper, the Twin Falls Times-News, had an article over the weekend in which one lawmaker who must face off against another incumbent described the commission's new legislative district plan, L-87, as the worst gerrymandering job he'd ever seen, while a few paragraphs later, another described it as the best redistricting plan he'd seen - and he doesn't have to face another incumbent. The commissioners shared a laugh. "I had nothing but emails saying 'Thank you for getting it done ... no matter what we did,'" said Commission Co-Chairman Ron Beitelspacher.

The redistricting commission's next task is to draw new lines dividing Idaho's 1st and 2nd congressional districts. Click below for AP reporter John Miller's article over the weekend on Plan L-87, which includes this quote from Beitelspacher: "We did not deal with any partisan politics. We started out as strangers, we became friends. And we did it according to the Constitution, so help me God."


Idaho redistricting panel adopts legislative map
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho's second 2011 redistricting commission unanimously adopted a map laying out the state's 35 legislative districts.

The unity of the three Republican, three Democrat panel's decision on Friday was a marked departure from the rancor that divided the first redistricting panel, which met for 92 days before adjourning empty-handed in Sept. 6.

The new panel, which has met for less than a month, so far, still must adopt a U.S. congressional map. It plans to meet Monday.

Population changes require Idaho to come up with new maps every 10 years, to preserve one-person, one-vote principles.

This one includes 11 county splits, which could be a point of contention given the Idaho Supreme Court has highlighted the importance of keeping counties together. The 2001 redistricting spilled over into 2002 because of several contentious legal battles.

Still, the panel on Friday offered justification for its new plan in a 13-page report. Among the highlights: The population deviation between the biggest and smallest districts falls within the legal 10 percent. And Republican Commissioner Dolores Crow said the county splits were necessary as the panel sought to preserve communities of interest.

"Only God could make one that would make everybody happy," Crow said, of the map that won the 6-0 vote. "And I'm not God. I believe we covered all the angles possible to cover. We did what was necessary for the state and national constitutions."

Others besides Crow on the panel were Republicans Randy Hansen, a former state lawmaker from Twin Falls, and Sheila Olsen of Idaho Falls, a GOP activist. Democrats were Ron Beitelspacher, a retired Grangeville utility lineman; Shauneen Grange, a Democratic activist; and Elmer Martinez, a former state representative from Pocatello.

Lou Esposito, a Republican member of the previous redistricting committee, said on Friday he hadn't yet closely scrutinized the plan.

But he told The Associated Press he's been getting phone calls from GOP loyalists who are concerned that the map may not be advantageous to Idaho's dominant political party.

State Republican Party Chairman Norm Semanko has complained the redistricting process in Idaho gives too much power to Democrats because of the even split on the panel.

Like in virtually any redistricting, some Idaho incumbents wound up as victims in Friday's map, forced to face off against other sitting legislators.

Northern Idaho Republican Sens. Shawn Keough and Joyce Broadsword both were placed in District 1.

Meanwhile, Republican Reps. Tom Trail and Dick Harwood, along with Democratic Rep. Shirley Ringo, must vie for just two seats near Moscow in District 5, while west-central Idaho's District 8 includes five sitting representatives including House Speaker Lawerence Denney and House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts.

Republican Sens. Patti Anne Lodge and Melinda Smyser could face each other in May in the District 11 primary, if they opt to run again.

In Boise, Democratic Sen. Les Bock would square off against Republican John Andreason, while District 20 pits Republican Sen. Shirley McKague against Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder.

There's also a cluster of sitting Senate and House lawmakers in southern Idaho's District 23 affected, including Republican Sens. Bert Brackett and Tim Corder.

Incumbents in the House are also affected in Twin Falls, Idaho Falls and Ada County, where Republican House Majority Leader Mike Moyle was put together with Reps. Reed DeMordaunt and Marv Hagedorn.

But Beitelspacher said Democrats and Republicans panelists alike on this renewed effort to set Idaho's election boundaries for the next decade ignored political and incumbent considerations, focusing instead on meeting their constitutional and statutory obligations.

"When you follow those Supreme Court decisions, you start eliminating a lot of the partisan stuff in a hurry," he said. "We did not deal with any partisan politics. We started out as strangers, we became friends. And we did it according to the Constitution, so help me God."


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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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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