Idaho’s bipartisan redistricting commission is expected on Wednesday to call for a do-over on its vote to approve legislative and congressional maps to ensure the commission did not unintentionally break Idaho’s open meetings law.
Commissioners will re-do their votes out of an abundance of caution because the agenda for Friday’s meeting, when commissioners originally voted to approve maps, may have been incomplete, said Keith Bybee, a Legislative Services Office division manager who is on the redistricting commission’s staff.
The issue is that Friday’s agenda did not specify the meeting would take place at the Idaho State Capitol. The agenda did include the correct date and time, the room number where the meeting occurred and the action items that commissioners considered.
But commissioners and staff are especially sensitive to the urgency surrounding this year’s redistricting process because the state received population data from the U.S. Census Bureau late, due to what census officials described as COVID-19 delays. That created a time crunch because Idaho’s new redistricting plan needs to be finalized and not hung up by any legal challenges in order for candidates to declare for the 2022 primary elections in late February. That’s also about the time when counties begin printing primary ballots. Idaho’s primary election is scheduled to take place May 17, 2022.
What does Idaho’s open meeting law require?
Under Idaho’s open meeting law, agendas are required for each meeting and must be posted publicly in advance. Commissioners did provide an agenda publicly in advance, but the question is whether someone could challenge that the agenda was incomplete. If there was a successful challenge under the open meetings law, that could potentially invalidate any action commissioners took, including the vote on maps, during the meeting in question.
Bybee said commissioners don’t want to take that chance. So they posted a full agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, which calls for the commission’s staff to provide notice of a potential violation of the open meetings law and then re-do the votes on maps from Friday.
Bybee said commissioners are re-doing the votes to avoid any potential challenges to the validity of their votes on maps, not because commissioners have changed their minds on maps.
Where can Idahoans look over the redistricting commission’s maps online?
Both maps commissioners originally approved Friday are available under the “maps” tab on the redistricting commission’s webpage.
The legislative map is called L03, and it splits eight of Idaho’s 44 counties.
The congressional map is called C03, and it splits Ada County between the state’s first and second congressional districts. Even with the Ada County split, almost all of Boise except for a small slice of southwest Boise will be located in the second congressional district.
The redistricting commission’s staff launched an online tool that allows Idahoans to enter their address and find out which legislative district they would reside in under map L03.
Commissioners are also scheduled to discuss and present their final redistricting plan on Wednesday.
Redistricting occurs every 10 years and is the process of using new census population data to redraw Idaho’s two congressional districts and 35 legislative districts. The process is required under the Idaho Constitution and the U.S. Constitution to ensure political representation is as equal as possible.
Idaho was the second-fastest growing state in the country over the past 10 years, according to the 2020 census. However, that growth was divided and uneven, which is why the old political boundaries need to be tossed out and redrawn.
Even though Idaho grew rapidly over the past 10 years, there was not enough growth for the state to receive a third congressional seat. Redistricting commission co-chairman Bart Davis said Idaho’s population may justify a third seat in Congress following the 2030 census.
Wednesday’s meeting begins at 1 p.m. and will be streamed live online for free using Idaho Public Television’s Idaho in Session service.
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