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)
The Idaho Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion Thursday upholding the new legislative political boundaries approved late last year by Idaho’s bipartisan redistricting commission.
The ruling removes much of the uncertainty that surrounded the state’s new legislative boundaries heading into the May 17 primary elections and the Feb. 28 opening of the candidate filing declaration window.
Thursday’s opinion means the 35 new legislative boundaries will be in place for the May primaries.
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As of this article’s publication on Thursday, Idaho Supreme Court justices were still considering a separate challenge to the redistricting commission’s congressional boundaries and plan, which the court has not yet ruled on.
Thursday’s ruling involved four challenges that were consolidated down into one case referred to as Durst v. Idaho Commission for Reapportionment. All of the challenges were different but essentially argued the new legislative redistricting map should be thrown out because it split more counties (eight in this case) than it should have. One of the challenges also alleged the legislative boundaries improperly split the reservations of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and Coeur d’Alene Tribe.
Idaho Supreme Court Justice John Stegner wrote in the unanimous opinion that the four challenges to the legislative redistricting map failed to show the legislative redistricting plan violated the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution.
Chief Justice G. Richard Bevan and Justices Robyn Brody, Gregory Moeller and Colleen Zahn concurred.
Stegner wrote that the redistricting commission faced “a delicate balancing act” to create a redistricting plan that adhered to both the federal and state constitutional mandates.
“Due to Idaho’s unique geography and the supremacy of federal law, there is unavoidable tension between the Idaho Constitution’s restraint against splitting counties and the Federal Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause,” Stenger wrote. “Navigating this tension is no easy feat.”
“To perform that balancing act as quickly and thoroughly as the (redistricting) Commissioners did, resulting in a legislative plan with unanimous bipartisan support on behalf of all six commissioners, is certainly laudable,” Stegner added. “We think it appropriate to acknowledge the challenges the Commission faced and to not overstep our responsibility in acknowledging that it is the Commission that must make difficult choices in trying to balance the various competing interests involved.”
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What is redistricting?
Redistricting takes place in states around the country every 10 years and is required by the U.S. Constitution and the Idaho Constitution. It is the process of using new U.S. Census Bureau population data to redraw Idaho’s 35 legislative districts and two congressional district boundaries to ensure the population is as equally divided as possible. The idea is to make sure that one person’s vote in one part of the state is of approximately equal weight as another person’s vote in another part of the state. Idaho was the second-fastest growing state in the country over the past decade, according to the 2020 census, but that growth was uneven and divided. That’s why the old maps needed to be thrown out and redrawn.
The process is complicated but it is extremely important because redistricting determines what legislative and congressional districts Idahoans live in. Those boundaries dictate who Idahoans can vote for and which offices candidates may run for. At the end of the day, the maps play a role in determining who represents Idahoans, their families and neighbors in the Idaho Legislature and in the U.S. Congress for the next 10 years.
Until 1986, the Idaho Legislature was responsible for redistricting. Voters approved three constitutional amendments in the 1986 general election, which created a process for a new, bipartisan redistricting commission to be in charge of redistricting.
The commission truly is bipartisan. Three of the commissioners from 2021 were appointed by Democrats and three were appointed by Republicans. The commissioners traveled the state in the fall of 2021 conducting 18 public hearings before voting on Nov. 10 to approve the congressional and legislative redistricting maps and plans.
The new legislative redistricting map is called L03 and is available to view on the redistricting commission’s website under the “adopted maps” tab. Some maps are interactive, and Idahoans who want to find out which legislative district they live in may enter thor address in the search box on the viewing page for map L03.
Check out Idaho’s new legislative redistricting map for yourself
The new legislative redistricting map is called L03 and is available to view on the redistricting commission’s website under the “adopted maps” tab.
Some maps are interactive, and Idahoans who want to find out which legislative district they live in may enter thor address in the search box on the viewing page for map L03.
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