Idaho's Redistricting News
Idaho State Journal:
"State Republicans blast current legislative map."
June 18, 2002
Idaho State Journal
Still stinging from the loss of veteran legislators in incumbent-vs.-incumbent races, Idaho Republicans made their state party convention here a forum for attacking the process and product of IdahoŪs citizen Commission on Redistricting.
During its Monday general session, members of the Idaho Republican Party voiced their disapproval and discontent with IdahoŪs current map of legislative boundaries. The commission struggled through months of refashioning districts to provide equal population among districts, with the result that eastern Idaho lost representation and western Idaho gained.
The convention began Saturday and concludes today.
Though it rejected a measure that would have advocated drastic revision of redistricting criteria, the party today will consider supporting as part of its platform abolition of the Redistricting Commission.
žThe commission answers to no one,Ó said Trish Oak, a Bingham County delegate and co-host of a conservative talk show in eastern Idaho. žThe legislators have to answer to the citizens of the state and that is where the power should be.Ó
The rejected proposal would have made retention of communities of interest more important than maintaining county boundaries in drawing up legislative maps.
žThere was no emphasis placed on communities of interest in the last plan,Ó said Kitty Kunz, chairwoman of the Bannock County Republicans.
žSomething needs to happen, it just needs to be investigated further. People are just angry and the resolution was a knee-jerk reaction.Ó
Used just last year for the first time, the six-member citizen panel waded through dozens of rejected plans and several lawsuits before it developed a map of political boundaries the Idaho Supreme Court would accept. However, the outcome has yet to be accepted by all groups, least of all attendees at the Republican convention.
Even state GOP Chairman Trent Clark wants to contest the redistricting commissionŪs work.
žWhat we stand for in redistricting is integrity in the process,Ó Clark said. žIn my personal opinion, this last plan lacked integrity.Ó
Because he does not believe the issue is a partisan one and does not want it perceived as such, Clark has held back from taking action against the plan. As he gives up his party chairmanship today, likely to Rep. John Sandy, R-Hagerman, Clark is ready to pull off the gloves.
Within his party, Clark plans to advocate the formation of a Republican task force that would examine options for altering the redistricting process. The Legislature has performed that task in the past, and has found it no easier than did the commission because of heated political partisanship.
žIŪm looking forward to Wednesday when I can do something with these hands that are shackled right now,Ó Clark said. žI have pledged to redress the wrong and I may personally financially support a lawsuit.Ó
Platforms, planks and resolutions
State party conventions present party members with an opportunity to develop their stance on issues ranging from tax policy to family values.
Part of the convention is developing a party platform, which consists of planks. Each plank is an idea or goal that the party believes in or supports.
Resolutions, such as those passed during MondayŪs general session, are designed as a means by which the party can accomplish the goals of its platform.
For example, a plank may state that a party supports limited government. A resolution might suggest specific measures for limiting government, such as elimination or consolidation of state agencies and/or services.
Eastern and northern Republicans squared off Monday at the GOP state convention here.
It was the first, if brief and civil, debate on the convention floor, and probably indicates more to come today.
Still stinging from a redistricting plan that pitted several incumbents against each other and refocused power in the high-growth areas in the Treasure Valley and up north, east Idaho conservatives sponsored a resolution calling for a change to the six-person committee that redraws legislative districts.
They wanted the party to push to keep any two members from hailing from the same county, and to require that the panel meet around the state.
But Kootenai County delegates Bob Nonini and Sandy Patano led a debate to kill the resolution, saying the party should study the issue more before taking a stand.
žWe don•t redistrict in this state for another 10 years,Ó Patano said.
Their case was helped by Rigby state Rep. JoAn Wood, who is supporting a change in the party•s platform to call for redistricting to go back into the hands of the Legislature.
A voice vote killed the resolution, but the issue could get some attention as Wood defends her proposal when the platform changes are discussed today.
žI feel like the commission was a failure,Ó she said.
Allowing the Legislature to regain control would allow lawmakers to žnot just defend our seats, but defend the districts we represent,Ó she said.
The rest of the proposals that the resolutions committee supported were passed without debate.
They•re designed to tell elected Republicans and state party officials what actions the party wants accomplished.
The party approved resolutions:
Ô To support increased federal spending on silver.
Ô To allow people to seek damages when sued in žfrivolous environmental lawsuits.Ó
Ô To endorse the idea of all elections being consolidated to one of four days in the year.
Ô To urge the congressional delegation to withdraw the United States from the United Nations.
Ô To reiterate the party•s opposition to the reintroduction of wolves.
Ô And to urge the opposition of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other international financing institutions.
The platform committee also met Monday to put the finishing touches on its report to the general assembly, and its members clashed a bit over a couple of proposals relating to Idaho•s Native American tribes.
Bingham County delegate Trish Oak ů of the conservative žTrish and HalliÓ radio show ů proposed a change that would have endorsed the scientific study of Indian remains, and made discoveries of these remains property of the person who found them or owned the land on which they were found.
žAre we just trying to lose the American Indian vote?Ó asked young Pocatello delegate Ryan Sargent.
Another committee member called it a žpolitical hand grenade,Ó and the proposal was rejected.
Moments later, Nonini pitched a plank that extended a great deal of support for the state•s tribes, saying that the party would žstrengthen Native American self-determination by respecting tribal sovereignty, encouraging economic development on reservations and working with them to achieve sustainable sources of revenue for tribal government.Ó
That motion died too, largely because of concerns over whether that meant the party supported it.
They have the title and they have the records. Now it's up to voters to decide which Coeur d'Alene senator gets a chance to go back to the Legislature next year.
Redistricting has thrown Republican Sens. John Goedde and Kathy Sims into the same race, forcing them to face off in Tuesday's primary election.
Whoever wins will challenge Democrat David James Hunt and Libertarian Dan Gookin in the November general election for the District 4 Senate seat.
Sims, who was appointed by Gov. Dirk Kempthorne in February 2001, fought against Idaho's redistricting plan and joined a lawsuit to challenge the new boundary lines.
She was unhappy with District 2, which stretches in a horseshoe from Bonner County to Shoshone County and down to Benewah County.
Sims, 60, said her redistricting opposition had little to do with trying to avoid a run against Goedde, 53, who was elected in 2000.
As the former Kootenai County Republican Party chairwoman and the state vice chairwoman, Sims was appointed to the Senate when Jack Riggs, R-Coeur d'Alene, became lieutenant governor.
Although she and Goedde are both Republicans, both senators agree many issues separate them.
Goedde, a former Coeur d'Alene School District trustee, touts that he is the education candidate and has been endorsed by the Idaho Education Association.
"I don't think we can squeeze education any more than we have," Goedde said.
But finding extra cash is the hard part.
"I think if we want to keep services Idahoans seem to demand we have to find a way to pay for them and I'm not sure how to do that," he said.
Increasing the state sales tax is one way to immediately raise more state money. Yet, because the sales tax is regressive, it often hurts poorer residents the most, he said.
Re-examining the $114.4 million tax cut legislators doled out in 2001 is another idea.
"In hindsight maybe what we made permanent we ought to have made one-time," said Goedde, who served as Coeur d'Alene Area Chamber of Commerce chairman and North Idaho Chamber of Commerce president.
Sims said she, too, is for boosting Idaho's education system and served on the Senate Education Committee and a state assessment and accountability committee.
She wants test scores of Idaho children to improve. As Idaho spends more money on teachers and instruction, students test scores continue to decrease, she said.
And that shouldn't happen, especially if Idaho wants its students to stay in-state after graduation.
"We need the absolute best and brightest to take care of all our problems in this state," she said.
To do this, Sims said children need a thorough education. That's why she touted a bill to require public schools to teach children about multi-use management of Idaho's natural resources. The bill died in committee and Goedde voted against it, saying he agreed with the teaching but said it shouldn't be specifically mentioned in state law.
Sims said schools aren't the only state programs asking the state for more money in this tough economy.
"We don't want to take everything away from the seniors and Medicaid," she said. "And with the methamphetamine problem, we don't want to cut our law enforcement. Higher education took a big hit, too."
Sims said creating a bunch of new taxes isn't the solution, but Idaho's tax structure always needs examining.
She joined a lawsuit by Concerned Taxpayers of Kootenai County in opposing Kootenai County's resort-county sales tax that charges a half-percent to pay for property tax relief and the new $12 million county jail. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the case. Sims thinks the tax is unconstitutional because it only applies to Kootenai County and not other Idaho counties that may need help building jails or other facilities.
Goedde, who is president of Panhandle Insurance Corp., supports the resort-county sales tax.
He also voted for a bill that eliminated the sunset clause on Idaho's job tax credit, which gives companies money for creating jobs.
Sims, the majority owner of Coeur d'Alene Honda, voted against the measure because, she said, Idaho needs to help the people losing jobs in this weak economy instead of worrying about recruiting.
Goedde got praise this session for backing a new law that prevents insurance companies from using credit reports as the primary reason for raising rates or canceling someone's car or home insurance.
As an auto dealer, Sims said credit reports are important tools in assessing whether people will pay their bills. She voted against Goedde's measure.
Term limits is another area that distanced the two Republicans this session.
Neither senator supports term limits, yet only Goedde voted to override the governor's veto of legislation repealing Idaho's term-limit law.
Sims stuck with the governor because she said Idaho's term-limit law could still have been adjusted to exclude local and county offices. Besides, she said, voters twice said they wanted to limit the time politicians can stay in office.
"If you want the people to think their vote counts, look at some alternatives," she said. "Leadership was the problem. They allowed no options."
Both candidates support research efforts to find new ways to grow grass on the Rathdrum Prairie that would not requiring burning.
Sims said the grass farmers have been very cooperative and need help solving the problem.
"I would really hate to see the Rathdrum Prairie all chopped up but if the farmers are put out of business, that will be a big problem we will have to address," she said.
Goedde thinks the smoke created by field burning is a short-term problem because he anticipates that the farmers will sell their land to developers. "I don't think the state has the right to shut them down but the state needs to encourage them to look at whatever option is available."
The Idaho Supreme Court on Friday rejected yet another set of legal and constitutional challenges to a bipartisan citizen panel•s plan for realigning the state•s 35 legislative districts.
A group of lawmakers, two counties and a water rights group asked that the Idaho Redistricting Commission•s plan be scrapped in favor of the political map used since 1992.
But the high court said the new plan was žpresumptively constitutionalÓ and setting it aside would disrupt the candidate filing period for the May 28 primary election. That began Monday and continues through next Friday.
In addition, the justices said, žno showing has been made sufficient to justify this immediate and drastic relief.Ó
Population growth and shifts in the decade since the 1992 plan was implemented also would deprive some voters of constitutionally required equal representation, the court said.
There is a 117 percent difference between the most- and least-populous legislative districts under the old plan. The court has said plans with a deviation over 10 percent are violations of the U.S. Constitution•s equal protection clause, which mandates a one-person, one-vote representation standard.
Some lawmakers alleged the new legislative map ů approved by the six-member panel that was appointed by legislative and party leaders ů also violates the equal protection clause. As a region, they argued, northern Idaho gets an advantage in representation.
žThe overall approach of this Redistricting Commission has been a phenomenal failure. There are large blocks of people who are disenfranchised,Ó said Republican state Sen. Stan Hawkins of Ucon, one of the legislators who mounted the latest challenge. žI think there clearly were political overtones to the way this plan was drawn.Ó
And while denying all the requests for the 2002 election cycle, the Supreme Court kept open the possibility of revisiting the constitutional and legal questions.
The court said žfactual issues have been raised that would likely require the development of a record through appointment of a special master or referral to a district court,Ó which would take too long to be of use this year.
žHowever, that does not foreclose the possibility that, if a proper record is developed, the court could consider these claims in the future.Ó
Chief Deputy Secretary of State Ben Ysursa was happy the court refused to disrupt this year•s elections. He said the process already is well under way, and there figures to be a record number of candidate filings by the end of next week.
The justices rejected similar challenges on March 22 from Bonneville, Teton, Fremont and Owyhee counties. New challenges then were raised by Franklin and Caribou counties, Mitigation Inc. and legislators including Hawkins, Senate President Pro Tem Robert Geddes of Soda Springs, Sen. Kathy Sims of Coeur d•Alene, and Reps. Thomas Loertscher of Iona and Bill Sali of Kuna.
All the disgruntled lawmakers are Republicans. The plan they challenged placed Hawkins and Geddes in the same legislative district. Sims also is placed in the same district as fellow GOP incumbent Sen. John Goedde, and Loertscher is in a district with three other Republican members of the House.
Each district elects two members to the House and one to the Senate.
Hawkins said he and other concerned legislators would discuss continuing their fight beyond this year•s elections. But he said, žThis is an instance where relief granted late is no relief at all.Ó
Five Republican state lawmakers asked the Idaho Supreme Court on Monday to dump the newest plan for dividing the state into 35 legislative districts.
The petition from Senate President Pro Tem Robert Geddes, Sens. Kathy Sims of Coeur d•Alene and Stan Hawkins of Ucon, and Reps. Tom Loertscher of Iona and Bill Sali of Kuna came the same day legislative candidates began filing for seats using the new plan.
In addition to the one filed by state lawmakers, the court received petitions Monday from Caribou County and water rights entity Mitigation Inc. also objecting to the legislative boundaries created by the state•s first bipartisan redistricting commission.
The lawmakers say the new legislative map violates the U.S. Constitution•s Equal Protection Clause because, as a region, North Idaho gets the representation advantage.
The group also contends it is possible to do a better job of keeping communities of interest together and split fewer counties and precincts.
Attorney John Runft, representing the lawmakers, said the court should order that this year•s elections continue to use the plan that•s been in place since the 1990s and that a new plan be developed for the 2004 elections.
But they•re running against the odds the court will be willing to take up the case. On Friday, the court rejected petitions from Bonneville, Teton, Fremont and Owyhee counties that called the plan unconstitutional. Those counties also wanted the court to suspend the candidate filing period or use the current map. But the court said žinsufficient facts have been presentedÓ to prove that the redistricting commission•s plan either violates state statutes or the constitution.
And while the court said it•s not up to its five justices to ždecide the wisdom of the plan,Ó the court didn•t say it wouldn•t consider other petitions against the plan.
The Idaho Supreme Court decided late Friday to uphold a plan to redraw the state•s legislative boundaries, despite petitions filed the same day by three Idaho counties protesting the plan as unfair and illegal.
The court, in an unsigned order, rejected petitions from Bonneville, Owyhee, Fremont and Teton counties asking that candidates not be allowed to file for legislative seats based on the plan.
The candidate filing period opens Monday and ends April 5, and the court took note of that, saying any further delay in a decision would disrupt the election process. The court said the third plan adopted by a bipartisan redistricting commission žis presumptively constitutional under both the United States and Idaho Constitutions.Ó The court had rejected two previous plans.
Owyhee, Fremont and Teton counties joined Bonneville County on Friday in calling the latest plan unconstitutional, and poorly devised. They said that it favors North Idaho residents over those in the state•s south.
Farm bureaus from Bonneville, Fremont, Madison, Teton, Franklin, Caribou, Oneida and Bear Lake counties also filed petitions Friday.
A small group of southern Idaho legislators unhappy with the plan still was deciding Friday night whether to go ahead with a petition contesting the plan.
The lawmakers had worked all week developing arguments opposing the new legislative map and coming up with a series of proposals they said were far superior to what the commission had adopted.
žOur view is the court didn•t feel like the arguments raised by the other petitions were solid enough to change the course,Ó Ucon GOP Sen. Stan Hawkins said. žOur arguments are significantly different.Ó
The court said, so far, žinsufficient facts have been presentedÓ to prove that the redistricting commission•s plan either violates state statutes or the constitution.
žIt is not this court•s place to decide the wisdom of the plan filed, nor to substitute its exercise of discretion for that of the commission, but to determine on the record presented whether a showing has been made to justify issuance of a writ delaying the electoral process. This showing has not been made,Ó the court wrote.
The counties contend there•s plenty to show the plan is flawed.
In its complaint, Teton County said its District 31 grouping with Caribou, Franklin, Bear Lake and Bonneville counties ignores shared communities of interest.
Fremont County questions its grouping with Clark, Butte, Jefferson, Custer and Lemhi counties into District 35.
Owyhee County Prosecutor Ed Yarbrough said his county should have been grouped with Canyon and Elmore counties instead of with Twin Falls County.
Twin Falls County is so geographically isolated from Owyhee County žthat there is not even a paved road leading directly from Owyhee County into the Twin Falls portion of the legislative district,Ó Yarbrough wrote.
He added that his county•s residents would have to travel through at least five counties to reach the home of a legislator who resides in Twin Falls County.
When it comes to schools, churches, tax districts, transportation, media, agriculture and water interests, Owyhee County has more in common with Canyon and Elmore counties than with Twin Falls County, Yarbrough wrote.
žAs to Owyhee County, the commission ignored communities of interest in a tunnel vision attempt to placate northern counties and formulate a plan that had a deviation of less than 10 percent,Ó he said in the county•s petition to the court.
The third attempt by a bipartisan commission to come up with a redistricting proposal has a 9.7 percent difference between the most-populous and least-populous of Idaho•s 35 legislative districts.
Courts have ruled that 10 percent is the maximum deviation to comply with the U.S. Constitution•s one-person, one-vote standard.
The only exception is if the state can develop a rational state policy to break the 10 percent rule and apply that consistently.
An Idaho plan adopted in late August had a 10.69 percent deviation. That was rejected Nov. 29 as a clear constitutional violation. A second plan, adopted Jan. 8 and voided by the high court in March, had a 11.79 percent deviation.
But the Idaho Supreme Court•s ruling Friday says that the third plan seems to satisfy the law because it complies with the 10 percent requirement and divides counties only as necessary.
Bonneville County commissioners want the Idaho Supreme Court to throw out the latest plan to divide the state into 35 legislative districts.
The county on Tuesday filed a petition with the court, claiming the new redistricting plan contains districts that are žunnecessarily oddly shaped and are the products of gerrymandering.Ó The complaint comes less than a week before candidates for the Legislature would be allowed to start filing. Because of that, the county has asked for either a delay in the candidate filing period, or for the legislative map of the 1990s to stick for the 2002 election.
That would leave some communities ů particularly in western Ada County and in Canyon County ů under-represented in the Legislature.
It•s the third time the bipartisan commission•s plans to redraw political boundaries has been contested.
The court voided previous plans as unconstitutional because they contained too many people to satisfy the U.S. Constitution•s equal protection clause.
This time around, Bonneville County claims:
Ô Northern Idaho districts have been favored over those in the southeast.
Ô It should not be grouped in a legislative district with counties with which it has little in common ů Teton, Caribou, Franklin and Bear Lake counties. The new District 31 žimpermissibly fails to maintain traditional neighborhoods or communities of interest.Ó
Ô The redistricting commission failed to consider neighborhoods and communities of interest such as school districts and city limits.
Ô The western boundary of District 32 contains a jog that appears to unconstitutionally protect incumbent Sen. Bart Davis.
Ô The plan doesn•t follow precinct boundary lines in the county.
Ô The commission didn•t look at plans that contained fewer than 35 legislative districts. The state constitution allows the creation of between 30 and 35 districts. The petition says fewer districts may do more to preserve county boundaries.
A small group of lawmakers worked all day Tuesday to craft a 32-district plan that contains fewer splits in counties and fewer breaks in precinct lines.
žWe ought to have the best plan we can, and we can do better than this,Ó said Kuna GOP Rep. Bill Sali, who plans to join other legislators and policymakers in a separate petition to block the latest redistricting plan.
Sali and others say Ada County•s new districts contain too many split precincts and don•t follow easily recognizable lines.
House Speaker Bruce Newcomb said Wednesday that he wants the attorney general•s office to see whether it•s possible for the state•s current legislative boundaries to remain in place for another two years.
Newcomb made the comment at an Idaho Press Club luncheon with members of the media. žEveryone would like to go home with some idea if they have a district or if they even live in Idaho,Ó Newcomb said with a chuckle.
The Idaho Supreme Court ruled last week that the second plan developed by the state•s first bipartisan redistricting commission is unconstitutional. The court ordered the panel to try a third time to come up with an acceptable proposal.
The commission, made up of three Republicans and three Democrats, will meet this weekend to try to negotiate a solution.
The clock is ticking.
The Legislature is expected to go home by March 15.
The time for candidates to file for office will open March 25.
Thorpe Orton, the attorney general•s deputy chief of staff, said the concept will have to be reviewed, but said the 1980s torturous redistricting effort suggests it might be possible to do what Newcomb has in mind.
Still, Republican redistricting commissioner Kristi Sellers predicted the panel•s third attempt will be successful and that there•s no need to look at fallback plans.
žThe fact is we have a job to do. We•re going to get it done,Ó Sellers said. žI still think we can do a better job and complete our task.Ó
Senate Majority Leader Jim Risch said lawmakers may still consider changes to the commission•s membership ů perhaps add one member to avoid a deadlock.
Newcomb said another change might involve making appointments to the panel based on region.
žI•m not sure how we can get
there, but there has to be some changes made,Ó Newcomb said.