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Third challenge filed over Idaho’s new redistricting plan

Idaho’s redistricting commission approved legislative map L03 on Nov. 10. This section of the map shows much of the Treasure Valley. (Courtesy of Idaho Commission For Reapportionment)
Idaho’s redistricting commission approved legislative map L03 on Nov. 10. This section of the map shows much of the Treasure Valley. (Courtesy of Idaho Commission For Reapportionment)

The Idaho Supreme Court indicates it will hear arguments on first two challenges in January

An eastern Idaho man filed a challenge against Idaho’s new legislative redistricting plan on Wednesday with the Idaho Supreme Court, bringing the total number of redistricting challenges to three.

Chubbuck resident Spencer Stucki is asking the Idaho Supreme Court to throw out the legislative map Idaho’s bipartisan redistricting commission voted unanimously to approve Nov. 10.

Stucki alleges that counties, districts and voters across the state were not given equal consideration in the new maps of boundaries that redistricting commissioners adopted. Stucki also alleges the commissioners ignored publicly submitted maps, such as his own, that split an additional eastern Idaho county to adjust population deviations between Idaho’s 35 legislative districts.

“All submitted plans with a nine-county split were dismissed in spite of overwhelming testimony in favor of them,” Stucki wrote in his challenge.

How often and where to split counties has been one of the biggest challenges for the redistricting commission.

Redistricting takes place every 10 years following a new population census and is the process of redrawing Idaho’s 35 legislative districts and two congressional districts. Redistricting is required under the U.S. Constitution and Idaho Constitution to ensure political representation is as equal as possible between different political districts.

Idaho was the second fastest-growing state in the country over the previous 10 years, according to the 2020 census. But that growth was lopsided and divided, which is why the only political districts needed to be thrown out and redrawn.

Last month, state superintendent of public instruction candidate Branden Durst and Ada County filed challenges asking the Idaho Supreme Court to throw out the redistricting commission’s legislative map. Those challenges were very different from Stucki’s because they allege too many counties were split whereas Stucki asked to split an additional county.

Durst and Ada County commissioners challenge the plan by arguing the state’s counties were divided too many times unnecessarily. Ada County commissioners also specifically disagree with the way Ada County was divided up and how portions of the county were combined with other areas.

The Idaho Supreme Court previously agreed to consolidate Durst and Ada County’s complaint and hear oral arguments on those complaints in January. Briefs from both those two challengers and the redistricting commission are due to the Idaho Supreme Court this month.

In his challenge, Stucki identified himself as a co-chairman of an organization called the Committee for Fair Elections, which advocates for electoral college reform, term limits, open primary elections and a majority vote requirement to be elected to office.

This fall, Stucki used a free version of the Maptitude software redistricting commissioners used to draw and submit 16 proposed maps to the redistricting commission. Durst and Ada County officials also used the same software to draw and submit their own proposed redistricting maps.

When they approved the legislative map unanimously in November, redistricting commissioners said they like the map because it is well-balanced and keeps the differences in population among the districts low.

If the redistricting maps survive legal challenges, they will be put in place starting with the 2022 primary elections scheduled for May 17 and remain in place for 10 years. Idaho’s next redistricting commission convenes in 2031, following the 2030 census.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state.