Democrats say Republicans are giving too much weight to lesser statutory standards and not enough deference to a constitutional provision limiting the dividing of Idaho's 44 counties to draw legislative districts.
Reviewing the map the GOP commissioners presented Monday, the Democrats on Tuesday said the commission has more work ahead, a view with which the GOP concurred. Both parties said they would "roll up their sleeves" and keep at it.
But first, Democrats critiqued the GOP plan.
"Having waited almost two weeks for a map, we express some disappointment," said Democratic Commissioner George Moses of Boise. Democrats presented their map July 19, which was met with similar skepticism by the GOP commissioners.
Moses objected to taking two parts of Ada County -- in the northeast and southwest -- and coupling them with other districts. District 9 takes 10,509 people in northeast Boise and along Idaho 21 and puts them with Boise, Valley and Gem counties. District 21 takes 27,674 people in and around Kuna and puts them with the Melba area in Canyon County.
Ada County is entitled to nine full districts, say the Democrats, who are backed by the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce. "What it looks like here is Ada's being used for spare parts," Moses said.
The Republican map splits 11 of Idaho's 44 counties, the Democrats split eight. Republicans split none of the 922 existing precincts, Democrats split 14. County clerks told the commission not to worry about precinct lines, saying they planned to remake those boundaries anyway.
The GOP plan complies with state law that requires state or federal highways connect districts, but the Democratic plan has seven of 35 districts that don't meet that standard. The precinct and road standards can be overridden with five votes of the six on the evenly divided commission.
Republicans say their map does a better job on the most important test of all: Keeping populations as nearly equal as possible.
The Republican plan has a population difference of 3,422 between the largest and smallest district, or a deviation of 7.64 percent, well under the presumed constitutional standard of 10 percent. The Democratic plan has a difference of 4,400 between largest and smallest, a deviation of 9.82 percent. Ideally, in a 35-district plan, each district would have 44,788 people, counted in the 2010 census.
Democratic Commissioner Julie Kane of Lapwai said splitting Nez Perce and Latah counties won't survive a court challenge "when we have a plan that doesn't split them waiting in the wings." Kane is a lawyer.
GOP Commissioner Lou Esposito of Boise replied, "In all due respect to Commissioner Kane, I don't think it's our job to be lawyering when it comes to how we construct these maps. The law's very clear. We have our constitutional mandate. It gives us the option to split counties as necessary...I think it's dangerous to follow one (standard) in particular at the expense of all the others."
Added Esposito: "I would argue adamantly and forcefully that a low deviation plan...which gives much greater weight to one person, one vote, far exceeds any splitting of counties."
Article 3, Section 5 of the Idaho Constitution says "a county may be divided in creating districts only to the extent it is reasonably determined by statute that counties must be divided to create senatorial and representative districts which comply with the constitution of the United States."
The state law, which is subordinate to the constitution, that sets the precinct and road standards is in Title 72, Section 1506, and says districts "shall be directly connected by roads and highways which are designated as part of the interstate highway system, the United States highway system or the state highway system."
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