Idaho Supreme Court considers new congressional district map

January 24, 2022 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments on whether the state’s redistricting commission met deadlines and properly split the state into two new U.S. congressional voting districts.

Christopher Pentico brought the lawsuit against the bipartisan Idaho Commission for Reapportionment last year, contending the new congressional district map violates Idaho law because it splits six local voting precinct boundary lines in Ada County. The commission is tasked every 10 years with redrawing legislative and congressional districts based on the most recent census.

Pentico created a proposed map of his own and submitted it to the commission a month before they selected a different final map, Pentico’s attorney Edward Dindinger said. Pentico’s map did not split any voting precincts, though it did split one more city than the commission’s final map — the city of Star, west of Boise. Dindinger noted that Star has fewer than 10,000 residents.

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He said the commission should have know its own map was faulty based on its review of Pentico’s map.

“What is the purpose of allowing public participation in the redistricting process if there is no indication that that public participation is meaningfully considered by the commission?” Dindinger asked the high court.

Megan Larrondo, the deputy attorney general representing the commission and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, said Pentico’s reading of the law would lead to bizarre results. County commissioners are allowed to redraw local voting precincts as they see fit because they are essentially “administrative tools of convenience,” she said. In counties with rapidly changing populations, like Ada, precincts are frequently redrawn to account for new residents.

“It would be absurd to handcuff the commission to outdated precinct lines that it knows are going to be redrawn,” Larrondo told the justices.

Pentico’s approach would make precincts “sacrosanct” above preserving other communities of interest, she said, and could result in the commission drawing oddly shaped districts and otherwise acting contrary to legislative intent. The commission decided to split the six Ada County precincts only after hearing testimony from county commissioners that they would soon be redrawn anyway, she said.

Larrondo also said the commission met its deadline with two weeks to spare because the redistricting maps were submitted within 90 days of the commission being organized. She maintained the timeline starts once the commission convenes and elects its leadership, which gives it the tools it needs to adopt rules governing its proceedings.

But Dindigner said the commission is officially organized once the secretary of state orders it to be created — and that means the commission was two days late turning in the map.

Larrondo’s reading “turns a 90-day deadline into no deadline at all,” Dindinger said.

The Idaho Supreme Court is expected to issue a written ruling on the matter sometime in the near future. The high court will also decide four other lawsuits, each challenging the new map redrawing Idaho’s 35 legislative districts.