BOISE – 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 Friday was a marked departure from the rancor that divided the first redistricting panel, which met for 92 days before adjourning empty-handed on Sept. 6.
The new panel still must adopt a U.S. congressional map. It plans to meet again Monday.
Population changes require Idaho to come up with new maps every 10 years.
This one splits 11 counties into separate districts, potentially making it vulnerable to lawsuits since 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.”
Other Republicans besides Crow on the panel were Randy Hansen, a former state lawmaker from Twin Falls, and Sheila Olsen, a GOP activist from Idaho Falls. Democrats were Ron Beitelspacher, a retired Grangeville utility lineman; Shauneen Grange, a Democratic activist; and Elmer Martinez, a former state representative from Pocatello.
The redistricting will force some Idaho incumbent lawmakers to face off against other sitting legislators due to the way population changes were incorporated into the map.
North Idaho Republican Sens. Shawn Keough and Joyce Broadsword both were placed in District 1 in the map approved Friday.
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, both Republicans.
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.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day's top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter