BOISE - A last-ditch attempt by Idaho’s former redistricting commissioners to propose new legislative and congressional districts - nearly three weeks after their deadline - has no legal value, state officials declared this morning, other than as a recommendation to a new commission that will convene on Wednesday.
Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said he views the former commissioners’ unanimous agreement as a “positive development,” and the agenda for the new commissioners’ first meeting on Wednesday morning will be amended to include a presentation on it from the former commissioners. Still, he said, “There’s not a valid plan unless a legally constituted commission adopts the plan. … That will be up to the new commission.”
Ysursa huddled with Idaho Republican Party Chairman Norm Semanko and Democratic Party Chairman Larry Grant for an hour this morning, joined by phone by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, to decide how to proceed with regard to the new agreement.
Both Semanko and Grant said they were prepared to endorse the plans approved by the former commissioners, but given today’s legal guidance, they’ll proceed with the new commission. “From the Secretary of State we got very clear guidance today that the appropriate (course) … is for those commissioners to come to the new commission … with a recommendation,” Semanko said.
Said Grant, “The former commissioners worked on it and worked on it until they came to what they believed to be an appropriate agreement. I support those guys, people, I should say, for working that hard and coming to an agreement and continuing on. And as party chairman, I wouldn’t say that I like everything in the plan, but it is a compromise, and I think at this point it’s good … if we can get this taken care of, if we can get on with the election, and get started with the campaign.”
The officials said they didn’t review the district plans during their hour-long meeting - a map brought in by a redistricting staffer never got unfurled - but they did ask about how the plans can be gotten out quickly to the public for comment. The congressional plan, C-38, already is online from the last commission’s earlier deliberations; the new legislative district plan, L-83, will go online shortly on the redistricting commission’s website.
Both Semanko and Grant said they’ll have no preconditions on the new redistricting commissioners to require them to accept the former commissioners’ agreement. Grant noted that his party had already appointed its three new commissioners before the agreement was reached; two of the GOP appointments still are pending.
“From my standpoint, there are no preconditions,” Grant said. “I’m simply an appointing authority. … They’re the commissioner, they have to make their own decision, they have to do what they feel is right to get to an agreement.” He added, “I feel comfortable, though, that I think anyone as a commissioner is going to take a look at an agreement that’s been reached by the prior commissioners very carefully and take that as certainly a step forward, than having no map at all. So I think it’ll be considered very carefully, and I think the new commissioners will do their job in good faith.”
Semanko said, “We were very supportive of them continuing to talk. The fact that they’ve reached agreement, we would like to see that move forward in some form. The form that it’s going to move forward is a recommendation to the new commission.” Semanko said he’s advised his likely appointee to “factor that in,” but said, “I don’t have a litmus test other than that I think that that’s a person that will fulfill the constitutional and statutory duties, and hopefully someone who would return my phone calls. That was my criteria.”
One of the three GOP appointees was named this morning, Sheila Olsen of Idaho Falls, who was appointed by Idaho Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill. Semanko said the other two will be named before Wednesday.