Idaho Supreme Court consolidates redistricting map lawsuits

November 26, 2021 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Two lawsuits filed against Idaho’s redistricting commission over a new map redrawing the state’s 35 legislative districts have been consolidated into one lawsuit.

The Idaho Supreme Court in an order dated Tuesday said it granted the commission’s request to combine the lawsuits. The two lawsuits each argue that the map is unconstitutional because it splits up more counties than necessary. The court said neither party filing the lawsuits objected to combining them.

The six-person redistricting commission earlier this month approved the map redrawing Idaho’s 35 legislative districts from which voters will select the state’s 105 lawmakers over the next 10 years.

Former lawmaker Brandon Durst filed his lawsuit the same week the commission approved the map. Ada County Commissioners filed their lawsuit last week.

The court ordered that Durst and Ada County Commissioners file their opening briefs no later than 5 p.m. Thursday, and that the redistricting commission respond by 5 p.m. on Dec. 16. Oral arguments are planned for January.

The new legislative districts will be used for elections next year, including Republican and Democratic primaries on May 17, and then the general election in November.

The commission was tasked with redrawing the districts based on the population as counted in the 2020 census. Idaho has been one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. Commissioners during multiple meetings examined where the growth occurred and said they tried to create districts roughly equal in population, with about 52,000 residents each.

The commission is required to map new legislative districts that do not have more than a 10% population variance, and they are supposed to avoid dividing counties into multiple districts as much as possible. Still, there is no way to avoid splitting some of Idaho’s 44 counties into different districts.

The map the redistricting commission settled on splits eight counties, including Ada County.

On the map, three portions of Ada County were split and each portion was joined with either Gem, Canyon or Owyhee County. Other highly populated counties were also split, including Kootenai and Canyon counties.

Ada County Commissioners want the Idaho Supreme Court to order the redistricting commission to revise the map to reduce the number of splits.

“This parsing out of Ada County to achieve an ideal district size is constitutionally prohibited,” the commissioners wrote in their complaint.

Durst — who is running for Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction as a Republican — filed his lawsuit over the way some of the counties are divided. He wants the Idaho Supreme Court to order the commission to use a different map or come up with a new one.

Redistricting lawsuits are common, with at least 10 cases filed over the last four redistricting attempts dating back to 1981.