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Two new redistricting challenges filed with Idaho Supreme Court

Idaho’s redistricting commission approved legislative map L03 on Nov. 10. This section of the map shows much of the Treasure Valley.  (Courtesy of Idaho Commission For Reapportionment)
Idaho’s redistricting commission approved legislative map L03 on Nov. 10. This section of the map shows much of the Treasure Valley. (Courtesy of Idaho Commission For Reapportionment)
By Clark Corbin Idaho Capital Sun

Two new challenges over Idaho’s redistricting plan have been filed this week, including the first challenge against the new congressional plan.

In both cases, the challengers ask the Idaho Supreme Court to throw out the redistricting plans and put Idaho’s bipartisan redistricting commission back to work to create new maps of political boundaries.

Redistricting takes place every 10 years and is the process of using new U.S. Census Bureau data to redraw Idaho’s two congressional districts and 35 legislative districts. The process is required by the U.S. Constitution and the Idaho Constitution to ensure political representation is as equal as possible.

The Idaho Supreme Court is posting all of the challenges to the redistricting plan on its cases of interest webpage.

The new redistricting maps are available to view under the “adopted plans” tab on the redistricting commissioner’s website. The legislative map is called L03 and the congressional map is called C03.

Idahoans who want to find out which legislative district they would live in may enter their address into the search box on the viewing page for map L03.

Idaho was the second-fastest growing state in the country over the previous 10 years, according to the 2020 census. However, the growth was uneven and divided, which is why the old political districts needed to be thrown out and redrawn.

Idaho’s bipartisan redistricting commission voted to approve the congressional and legislative plans on Nov. 10, saying the maps were well-balanced and minimized differences in population between the districts.

What do the new redistricting challenges say?

First, an Elmore County man filed a legal challenge Wednesday night asking the Idaho Supreme Court to throw out the redistricting commission’s new congressional map and plan.

Christopher Pentico, who has served in leadership roles with the Elmore County Idaho Republicans, alleges in his challenge that the congressional redistricting plan was filed late and that it improperly splits a precinct.

Pentico’s challenge was the fourth overall challenge leveled against the redistricting plan approved by Idaho’s bipartisan redistricting commission on Nov. 10. However, Pentico’s is the first challenge against the congressional plan. There have been three previous challenges filed against the new legislative redistricting plan.

Then, on Thursday, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Shoshone-Bannock Tribes filed a new challenge against the legislative redistricting plan. The tribes allege that the legislative maps split more counties than necessary and divides tribal reservations in half.

“The commission wholly failed to consider retaining the Tribes’ sovereign interests in the redistricting process,” the challenge states. “The commission drew lines that fractured their reservations.”

Earlier this fall, leaders of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes wrote a letter to redistricting commissioners objecting to a proposed legislative map that was similar to the map commissioners eventually approved.

“We object to the boundary drawn between proposed Districts 28 and 30 because it intentionally divides the two largest population clusters on our reservation, also known as the Fort Hall Indian Reservation,” members of the Fort Hall Business Council of the Shoshone Bannock Tribes wrote.

When will the Idaho Supreme Court hear the challenges?

The Idaho Supreme Court combined the first two redistricting challenges, which were filed separately by Republican superintendent of public instruction candidate Branden Durst and Ada County commissioners. The Idaho Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in those cases Jan. 14.

The Idaho Supreme Court has not yet scheduled oral arguments involving either challenge filed this week or involving the challenge filed by Chubbuck man Spencer Stucki. Online court records indicate Stucki resubmitted his challenge Dec. 8 after the Idaho Supreme Court conditionally dismissed his first challenge because it was not verified or accompanied by a supporting brief.

If the redistricting plans survive the legal challenges they face, the plans will be put in place beginning with the 2022 primary election, which is scheduled for May 17.

The plans would remain in place for 10 years. The next census is scheduled for 2030. But if the court throws out the redistricting plans and puts the commissioners back to work drawing maps, that could jeopardize the state’s ability to hold the primary election on time. The new political boundaries would need to be in place in time for the official candidate filing period to open Feb. 28. After that, counties would need to begin printing up ballots ahead of the primary election.

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