September 13, 2011 in Idaho

Idaho must pick new redistricting panel

Law bans earlier members from participating again
By The Spokesman-Review

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa announces Monday that the state will have to form a new redistricting commission, starting over with six new members.
(Full-size photo)

BOISE – Idaho has to appoint an entirely new redistricting commission and start the process over after the first commission blew its deadline, Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa announced Monday.

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

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

The statute mainly dealt with requiring legislative districts to connect by road. But it also said past commissioners couldn’t serve again, a move that was aimed at commissioners 10 years ago, due to legislative dissatisfaction with some of the districts they drew.

The Idaho Supreme Court ruled late Friday that it can’t order this year’s commission back to work, because they never adopted new legislative and congressional district maps – so their commission ceased to exist. The court has the jurisdiction to step in only once a commission has adopted a plan, the justices said.

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 them,” Ysursa said.

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

The people who’ll appoint new commissioners – the Idaho House speaker and Senate president pro-tem, the House and Senate minority leaders, and the chairmen of the Idaho Republican and Democratic parties – have been notified and Ysursa said he hopes they’ll send him the names by Wednesday. A new commission could be sworn in by Monday.

“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.”

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