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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Supreme Court justices hear redistricting arguments

Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs told the Idaho Supreme Court this afternoon, "You may not divide counties unless you must do so to satisfy the United States Constitution." Twin Falls is leading a group of counties that's challenging the state's new legislative redistricting plan, in part because it divides Twin Falls County among three districts.

Justice Jim Jones asked Loebs if he had any evidence of discrimination in the drawing of the district lines in the plan, L-87. Loebs said his group isn't alleging that. He said the plan cites reasons like keeping cities and other communities of interest together or not violating a state law requiring road connections in districts, to explain why some counties are divided.  "Those are all perfectly good reasons, but they aren't legal reasons," Loebs told the court.

Jones told Loebs that redrawing Idaho legislative district lines is "kind of like a Dr. Frankenstein thing ... (to) try to piece together." He said, "It's not the commission's fault. ... They've got a state that is very oddly shaped, sparse population in some areas. ... When you tinker with one side, it affects another side."

Loebs responded, "There's no denying that this is a uniquely shaped state." But he said Plan L-87, for example, divides Kootenai County "when it isn't necessary to do it for one-person, one-vote." To that, Jones said, "You're essentially saying that the commission doesn't have any discretion in making a lot of these calls. If the computer says you can do it some other way, the computer wins over this commission."

The justices aren't expected to rule today; they'll take today's arguments under advisement and issue a written ruling. The Twin Falls challenge is one of two filed against the legislative redistricting plan; the second challenge, from a group of northern Idaho counties, is still in briefing.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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