Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Redistricting hearings start next week

Voters to weigh in on shape of District 25

Express Staff Writer

Wood River Valley residents will be given the chance to weigh in on the shape of electoral District 25 next week, when the state reapportionment committee will hold a public hearing in Hailey.

This is the first public redistricting hearing to be held in the valley. Prior to this, residents were required to travel to Twin Falls to give their opinions on how the state should be split.

"It would be really great if people showed up," said Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, adding that more than 40 people attended a public hearing in Pocatello on June 15. "They're laying the groundwork for what our district should look like."

Public hearings are held in order to gather input from across the state and to inform constituents of the process. State law requires that electoral and congressional districts remain as equal in population as possible, which means the lines must be redrawn every 10 years to match new census data.

However, the process is not a simple one and often ends in litigation.

In 2001, the proposed redistricting plan would have split Blaine County for representation, dividing Ketchum, Sun Valley and Carey from Hailey, Bellevue and Picabo.

The proposal was eventually overturned by the Idaho Supreme Court, which ruled that Blaine County was a "community of interest" that should remain intact.

District 25 currently comprises Blaine, Camas, Gooding and Lincoln counties. Though the district is short approximately 1,600 people, districts are allowed a slight variance from the goal population set by the state, a variance District 25 is well within.

Jaquet said the issue is complicated by lack of growth in the Magic Valley, which may need to take some of District 25 to reach its goal.

"To me, it's pretty obvious that Blaine by itself would probably be OK, but we need to help out those other districts," she said.

District 25 would then need to find more voters, a problem that Jaquet and state Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, have both suggested could be done by adding Custer County to the district.

Jaquet said adding Custer County would hamper the ability of representatives to serve the needs of the entire district.

"It's not always easy to go over Galena Summit," she said. "You certainly can't get over Trail Creek until late May. It would be a difficult district for us to service."

The hearing will be held Thursday, June 30, at 7 p.m. in room 301-302 at the Community Campus in Hailey. The commission has until Sept. 4 to draft a plan.

2001 Flashback

See 'County Targeted in Redistricting Plan' by Greg Stahl in our online June 11, 2001 edition."

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