BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Supreme Court on Friday heard arguments from four separate lawsuits filed against the state’s redistricting commission, all challenging various aspects of the new legislative district map.
The bipartisan Idaho Commission for Redistribution is tasked every 10 years with redrawing electoral districts based on the most recent census. Idaho has been one of the fastest growing states in the country, and commissioners looked at where that growth happened and tried to create roughly equal districts in population with about 52,000 residents each. . The commission is required to map new legislative districts that have no more than 10% population variance, and they are supposed to avoid dividing counties into multiple districts as much as possible.
Former state legislator Branden Durst was the first to sue, saying the map redrawing Idaho’s 35 legislative districts is unconstitutional because it divides more counties than necessary. Ada County Commissioners also pursued county division counts. Chubbuck resident Spencer Stucki has filed a lawsuit challenging the way districts are being redrawn in southeast Idaho.
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe in northern Idaho and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in southern Idaho also filed a lawsuit, with each group claiming the map wrongly divides their respective reservations into different districts without take into account that they are each “communities of interest”. be kept together as much as possible.
Tribes are the most “unique and cohesive” communities of interest in the state, their attorney Deborah Ferguson told Idaho Supreme Court justices, likening them to members of an extended family. The new maps dividing the Coeur d’Alene Tribe into two districts and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes into three districts only continue the state’s long history of discrimination and neglect of Idaho’s original residents, Ferguson said. .
Durst’s solicitor Bryan Smith told the High Court the redistricting map was unlawful because it divides eight ‘outside’ counties by taking pieces of each and adding them to a county in a different district . Smith said a redistricting map created by Durst showed districts could be created with only seven counties divided externally, and that state law requires the commission to divide counties as little as possible.
Assistant District Attorney Lorna Jorgensen, representing Ada County, raised a similar issue with how parts of Ada County and neighboring Canyon County — which together hold about 40% of the state’s population — have been divided.
“More than 75,000 people from Ada County were analyzed in other surrounding counties,” Jorgensen said. “With Canyon County, over 70,000 people were tested three times in surrounding counties.”
None of the next five largest counties in the state have been split externally, Jorgensen noted.
But Megan Larrondo, the assistant attorney general representing the commission, said the commission’s diligent and thorough work showed there was simply no way to divide fewer counties while delivering a map that answered all the questions. legal requirements set forth in state and federal law.
The commission performed a “Herculean task of redrawing a state with complex geography, political borders, population distribution and legal requirements,” Larrondo said.
The drafted maps that only divide seven counties all violated other redistricting rules, such as giving residents of some areas more voting power than others, she said.
Larrondo also said the commission collected public testimony from across the state and claimed that leaders of the Coeur d’Alene tribe told the commission that keeping the tribe in one district was “not the way to go.” priority”. She said keeping the Shoshone-Bannock tribes in one district violated state laws about how counties should be treated, and that the commission’s “hands were tied.”
The Idaho Supreme Court is expected to issue a written ruling in the coming weeks on whether or not the commission should redraw the map.
A fifth lawsuit by Elmore County resident Christopher Pentico takes aim at how the new US congressional district map divides some local electoral district boundaries. Oral arguments in this case are scheduled for January 24.
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