September 12, 2011 in Idaho

Idaho has to appoint new redistricting commission

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Betsy Russell photo

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa
(Full-size photo)

BOISE - Idaho has to appoint an entirely new redistricting commission - not including any of the six commissioners who blew their deadline last week - and start the process over, Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa announced this morning.

The reason: A 2009 law that the Legislature enacted that made several changes to the redistricting commission process, including banning past commissioners from serving again.

“I think it’s the law of unintended consequences,” Ysursa said.

The statute mainly dealt with requiring legislative districts to have road connections. “That was part of the road statute and everything else, and I don’t think that was discussed a lot,” Ysursa said. “I had to go back and refresh my memory and look at it.” But it also said past commissioners couldn’t serve again - a move that was aimed at the commissioners from 10 years ago; the law was even made retroactive to make sure they couldn’t serve again.

The Idaho Supreme Court can’t order this year’s commission back to work, because it never adopted a plan - so it ceased to exist. Only once a commission has adopted a plan does the court have jurisdiction to step in, the justices ruled late Friday.

As a result, Idaho’s redistricting clock will now start over - six new commissioners, three Democrats and three Republicans, will be appointed, and they’ll have up to 90 days to draw new legislative and congressional district plans. “I can’t limit ‘em,” Ysursa said.

Possible complications include that the budget for the redistricting commission already is about three-quarters spent, leaving around $110,000 to fund the new commission’s work; and that if it took the full 90 days, it’d bump up against various deadlines related to running the state’s next election, in May of 2012.

Ysursa noted, “We’ve been able to do it in much less time,” including in 1984, when new plans were coming out at the last minute and the court actually extended the filing period for candidates before the spring primary election by a week. But, he said, “That’s not our goal.”

“All appointing authorities have been notified,” Ysursa said. They include the House speaker and Senate president pro-tem, the House and Senate minority leaders, and the chairmen of the Idaho Republican and Democratic parties. Ysursa said he’s hoping they’ll send him the names by this Wednesday, and he’ll swear in a new commission next Monday at 9 a.m.

“There’s been a lot of work already accomplished and done,” Ysursa said. “Hopefully the new commission will see that and be able to complete their task expeditiously.”

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill told the Associated Press he’s been making phone calls “all morning” to get a new appointee lined up.


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