TWIN FALLS • When the new commission tasked with redrawing Idaho’s legislative and congressional boundaries goes to work Wednesday, its members will have 83 plans to consider.
Among those plans will be the one that took the state’s original redistricting commission 107 days to agree upon. The only problem: That commission had only 90 days to complete its work.
Members of that now-defunct redistricting commission announced Friday that they’d agreed to a plan, but its fate is uncertain, since its approval came 17 days after the commission adjourned and disbanded Sept. 6. This week, the new commission will try to succeed where its predecessor failed by drawing up a new district plan that reflects changes in Idaho’s population revealed in the 2010 Census.
Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who received all submitted redistricting plans Monday from the former commission, told the Times-News that, because the former commission no longer has any legal authority, its agreed-upon plan carries no more weight than any other submitted by the public.
“It’s up to the new commission,” he said. “They’re the ones that will decide if they like the plans or if they don’t.”
If the new redistricting panel supports the latest plan, it could mean substantial changes for the Magic Valley’s legislative clout.
Western Twin Falls County and Elmore County would be combined into one district, while a more urban district would include much of the city of Twin Falls, except its northeastern portion. That part of the city would be combined with Jerome County and a sliver of western Minidoka County.
Another district would include all of Cassia County, part of Power County, and 81.8 percent of Minidoka County’s population .
Currently, Twin Falls and Jerome counties are in separate legislative districts. So are Minidoka and Cassia counties.
Left unchanged would be the district containing Blaine, Camas, Gooding and Lincoln counties.
Asked why the former commission took as long as it did to reach an agreement, former Commissioner Lou Esposito said it “was not an easy process.”
“There was a lot of back and forth,” he said.
With three members from each political party on the six-member commission, at least one needed to cross party lines for a plan to pass. That didn’t happen with this year’s original commission.
Commissioners were at odds over whether the constitutional requirement to keep counties whole when possible carried more weight than state laws for redistricting, such as those encouraging that districts include counties already connected by paved roads.
“All of the procedural blocks that stopped us from doing anything when we were formed as a commission seemed to go away when we were no longer technically a commission,” said George Moses, a former Democratic commissioner.
Now, the former commissioners will pass on what they learned to the new commission and quietly leave the process.
“We are now a footnote in redistricting history,” Moses said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Ben Botkin may be reached at 735-3238.