Idaho’s redistricting commission approved new legislative and congressional boundaries in 2021. This section of the legislative map shows much of the Treasure Valley. (Courtesy of Idaho Commission For Reapportionment)
It didn’t take long for a political candidate to launch the first challenge to Idaho’s new redistricting plan.
In fact, the challenge may have come a little too quickly.
Branden Durst, a former Democratic state senator turned Republican superintendent of public instruction candidate, filed a legal challenge Wednesday asking the Idaho Supreme Court to declare the redistricting commission’s new legislative map, called L03, unconstitutional.
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Durst filed his petition for review with the Idaho Supreme Court on Wednesday, the same day redistricting commissioners re-voted to approve the new congressional and legislative maps and the state’s final redistricting plan.
But the redistricting commission didn’t deliver its final redistricting plan and maps to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office until Friday afternoon, said Keith Bybee, a member of the redistricting commission’s nonpartisan staff. Challenges to redistricting plans are allowed for 35 days after the final report has been submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office, which helps oversee elections in Idaho, the Idaho Press reported. Durst and his attorneys filed the challenge before the report was turned in.
Redistricting takes place every 10 years using new U.S. Census Bureau population data to redraw Idaho’s 35 legislative districts and two congressional districts. Idaho was the second-fastest growing state in the country over the previous decade, according to the 2020 census. But that growth was uneven and divided, which is why the old political boundaries needed to be tossed out and redrawn.
As for the challenge itself, Durst alleges the legislative map violates the Idaho Constitution because it divides more counties than he thinks is necessary.
This fall, Durst used a free, public version of the Maptitude software used by redistricting commissioners, to draw and submit his own proposed maps to the state. Durst cites one of his maps, called L84, in his court challenge.
On the redistricting commission’s website, Durst’s map indicates it splits eight counties, just as the redistricting commission legislative map that Durst is challenging does. But in his legal challenge, Durst said he considers his map to have seven counties split up.
Durst’s map also has a greater population deviation between his least populated district and most populated district compared with the redistricting commission’s map.
Redistricting commissioners said they paid particular attention to reducing population deviations between districts so that the new legislative districts would all be as close to the ideal population of a legislative district. Based on dividing Idaho’s 2020 census population by 35, the ideal population for a legislative district is 52,646 people.
Redistricting commission staff and commissioners have been blunt that they expected legal challenges, based on previous redistricting processes.
If the maps survive challenges, they will be put in place beginning with the 2022 primary elections and remain in place for 10 years.
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