BOISE – Republican redistricting commissioners sued their own panel Wednesday over the Idaho board’s failure to agree on new election maps and said they may seek to pay their legal costs from a taxpayer-funded budget.
The three GOP redistricting commissioners filed their lawsuit with the Idaho Supreme Court just minutes after Secretary of State Ben Ysursa filed his own complaint asking the state high court to reconvene the six-member panel to Boise to complete its work.
The Republican commissioners say they filed their own claim because they weren’t sure whether Ysursa’s would be adequate to resolve the issue.
“Once we realized what they were going to be doing, we didn’t have confidence we’d get enough specific guidance,” said commissioner Lou Esposito, of Eagle.
The redistricting panel failed to draw new election maps ahead of a Tuesday deadline. The state’s political boundaries must be re-established every 10 years to reflect population changes, and commissioners must take into account growth in some areas and stagnation in others.
The Republican commissioners have selected lawyer Christ Troupis to present their case.
“There’s been a couple of us that have covered his costs,” said Esposito, who has acted as GOP commissioners’ spokesman. “If this ends up being long and protracted, probably the state will end up bearing the costs, since it is related to the commission business.”
However, Republican commissioners don’t likely have authority to pay Troupis with the more than $100,000 remaining in the redistricting budget.
“They would have needed an affirmative vote of a majority of the commission to hire outside counsel,” said Keith Bybee, the Legislative Services aide who has helped guide the redistricting process.
In both Ysursa’s and the Republicans’ complaints, justices are being asked to clarify contentious issues. One sticking point is whether the commissioners should avoid splitting up counties at all costs, as Democrats contend is required by the Idaho Constitution. Another is whether a 2009 law meant to avoid unwieldy districts should also be taken into account, as Republicans favor.
Ysursa wants the Supreme Court to reconvene commissioners and order them to complete a plan for legislative and congressional districts within 60 days of the court order.
The GOP commissioners want the court to give commissioners just three days to come to an agreement once they’re ordered to reconvene.
“If we get more explicit direction, we’ll have a plan,” said Troupis.