Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa on Wednesday asked the Idaho Supreme Court to order the Commission for Reapportionment to reconvene and give it 60 days to complete its job.
Ysursa argues that the current political boundaries are on their face unconstitutional, with 96 percent population deviation between the smallest of 35 legislative districts and 15 percent difference between the larger 1st Congressional District and smaller 2nd District.
The six-member commission deadlocked along party lines and adjourned Tuesday after 92 days without adopting new districts for the 2012 election.
Shortly after Ysursa's writ of mandamus was filed, GOP Commissioners Evan Frasure, Lorna Finman and Lou Esposito sued the commission, using former GOP state Senate candidate Christ Troupis of Eagle as their lawyer. In April, the Legislature voted to pay the Idaho GOP $100,000 to cover Troupis' legal fees for winning the party's 2009 case against Ysursa to close Idaho primaries to registered party members.
The GOP asks the court to adopt its congressional map, C38, and to order the commission back to work for three days, with guidance on what criteria should take precedence. L38 submitted July 18; the GOP submitted rationale for the plan in the final 90 minutes Tuesday.
The GOP commissioners ask the court to decide whether the Democrats' view that limiting county splits, a provision in the Idaho Constitution, is tantamount. Or, alternatively, whether the GOP view is correct that a subsequent state law discouraging splitting of precincts and encouraging direct state or federal highway connections between counties in each legislative district should also be important factors.
In either case, the GOP says its plans L68, L76, L77 and L82, are "preferable to any plan proposed by the Democrat members of the Commission" because they have smaller population deviations. L68 was submitted Saturday. L76 and L77 were submitted about 75 minutes before final adjournment; L82 was submitted in the final hour.
Unlike the Republicans, Ysursa says the court should defer to the commission, which was created by a 1994 constitutional amendment.
"The Secretary of State asks the Court to defer to the Commission to provide it the fullest opportunity possible to comply with the Constitution's directive that the Commission apportion Legislative and Congressional districts," says Ysrusa's petition, filed by Idaho Attorney General Lawerence Wasden's office. "Alternative means of apportionment should only be considered as a last resort."
Ysursa asks the court to affirm a hierarchy for the commission to follow: first, one-person, one-vote; second, dividing counties only when necessary to achieve population equality; third, "other statutory requirements as permissible after compliance with the preceding Constitutional requirements.
Ysursa also asks the court to:
# Clarify the conflict created by a statutory requirement for five votes to split a precinct or create a district without a direct highway connection and a constitutional requirement for four votes to adopt a plan.
"The two 5-vote requirements permit a statutory veto of the constitutional majority of 4 votes to approve a plan because if a single precinct is split, or if a State or Federal Highway does not 'directly' connect counties in the Legislative district, the plan would require a five-vote supermajority instead of the Constitutional four-vote majority for approval," writes Ysursa.
"The Commission may benefit from a clear statement whether four votes" may approve a final plan or whether five votes "are necessary if precincts are split or counties within a legislative district are not connected by federal or state highways."
# Clarify whether constitutional provisions trump statutory provisions, as the court held in a 2002 redistricting case, Bingham County vs. Idaho Commission for Reapportionment.
# Clarify whether, given Idaho's difficult geography, the statutory factors cited by the GOP commissioners "may make apportionment of the Legislature unachievable under the added voting requirements."
You can follow Idaho Statesman Politics on Twitter.