By REBECCA BOONE, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Supreme Court has upheld the state’s new map redrawing Idaho’s 35 legislative districts, finding that four separate lawsuits against the Idaho Redistributive Commission failed. not show that the way the map divided some counties was unreasonable.
The unanimous decision written by Judge John Stegner was released Thursday afternoon.
The bipartisan Idaho Commission for Redistribution is tasked every 10 years with redrawing electoral districts based on the most recent census, attempting to create precincts of approximately 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.
After the new legislative map was released last year, former state legislator Branden Durst sued, claiming it was unconstitutional because it split more counties than necessary.
Ada County commissioners also sued the number of county divisions, and Spencer Stucki, a Chubbuck resident, sued to challenge the way districts are redrawn in southeast Idaho.
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe in northern Idaho and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in southern Idaho also filed a lawsuit, claiming the map improperly divides their respective reservations into different districts without taking into account because they are each “communities of interest”. which should be kept together as much as possible.
In the ruling, the Idaho Supreme Court recognized the difficult task facing the redistricting commission, especially given Idaho’s unique geography and the different federal and state redistricting rules at play.
The Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution requires the commission to create districts as equal as possible in terms of population, to ensure that every resident’s vote carries equal weight. The Idaho Constitution, on the other hand, states that the commission cannot divide more counties than it deems reasonably necessary when developing the map.
“Navigating this tension is no easy task,” Stegner wrote, calling the work a “delicate balancing act.”
“To achieve this balancing act as quickly and comprehensively as the Commission did, culminating in a legislative plan with unanimous bipartisan support on behalf of all six commissioners, is certainly commendable,” Stegner wrote.
Durst and the others who sued failed to show that the commission “unreasonably determined” who drafted maps that divide fewer counties did not comply with equal protection rules.
In the lawsuit brought by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, the tribes cited a long history of discrimination within the state and argued that given their long history as a well-established community, it will self-evident that the interests of the tribes in unity and the maintenance of their voting power should be given the same, if not more, respect than the counties or cities of Idaho during the redistricting process.
Stegner acknowledged that argument in the ruling, but said that’s not how state law is written.
“We are unable to elevate community interests, such as tribes, above county interests, which are protected to a greater extent by the Idaho Constitution,” Stegner wrote. “To grant the tribes the increased status they seek, an amendment to the state constitution would be required.
The Idaho Supreme Court has yet to rule on a fifth lawsuit filed by Elmore County resident Christopher Pentico that targets how the new US congressional district map divides some boundary lines local electoral districts. Oral arguments in the case took place on Monday.
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