Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Commission approves legislative plan

Work completed in 2 weeks

Express Staff Writer

The Idaho Commission for Reapportionment approved a legislative map on Friday, following only two weeks of hearings and workshops. The commission had 90 days to complete its work, but finished ahead of schedule, voting to unanimously approve the map shown above. Courtesy graphic

After just two weeks of meetings, hearings and workshops, the second Idaho Commission for Reapportionment has approved a new legislative district map.

The commission approved the map Friday following a week of working in small, private groups. The new map keeps District 25—now District 26—intact, including the entirety of Blaine, Lincoln, Camas and Gooding counties.

Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said the mapping of District 26 was exactly what she had hoped for. Jaquet spoke out in an earlier public hearing regarding the necessity of keeping the four counties together, as did fellow legislators Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, and Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum.

"The nice thing about it is that we kept the same district," Jaquet said, which allows the three lawmakers to continue their working relationship. "We worked well together, we worked hard together, and I think it's good for the whole district."

The 2012 session will be Jaquet's last, however, as she announced her intention to retire from the legislature at the end of her term.

L87, as the approved plan is known, was hashed out by the bipartisan commission based on a series of public hearings and records from the first commission.

The first commission failed to approve either set of electoral districts by its Sept. 6 deadline. The second commission had until Dec. 12 to develop two sets of boundaries, but approved its plan unanimously almost two months ahead of schedule.

L87 consists of 35 legislative districts, with a population deviation of 9.92 percent—just under the allowable 10 percent. The smallest district, made of Jerome and Minidoka counties, falls short of the ideal district size by 5.24 percent.

A plan presented by the former redistricting commission three weeks after deadline as a "compromise" plan has a slightly lower deviation, but splits more counties, 14 to plan L87's 12.

Jaquet said she believes the approved map is fair and not skewed toward either party.

"What they tried to do is go for communities of interest," Jaquet said. "I think they behaved in the true spirit of the constitutional amendment."

Despite that perceived fairness, the plan may still be thrown to the Idaho Supreme Court. In 2001, the commission for reapportionment approved a legislative district plan that was later challenged.

Gary Moncrief, political science professor at Boise State University, said Monday that he expects the plan to be challenged—as are more than 80 percent of redistricting plans nationwide. Any Idaho resident who can show damage from the new plan can file a court challenge.

"Every redistricting plan that has been drawn in Idaho, whether in the Legislature or by a commission, has been challenged," he said.

Moncrief said he didn't notice any glaring constitutional issues with the commission's plan. But, he added, "that's for the Supreme Court to decide."

As for why the second commission's ability to succeed where the first had failed, Jaquet pointed to the friendly relationship among the commissioners, who often ate and traveled together.

"When you eat dinner with someone, it's pretty hard to be mean-spirited the next hour," she said.


Congressional districts approved

The second Idaho Commission for Reapportionment approved a congressional district map on Monday. The map shifts the former district boundaries to the west and splits Ada County.

Blaine County will remain in Congressional District 2, along with the city of Boise, Pocatello and Idaho Falls. Garden City, Meridian and Caldwell as well as the major northern Idaho cities will remain in District 1.

The map was approved on a 4-2 vote, with Democratic Commissioners Elmer Martinez and Shauneen Grange opposed.

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