With no preparation for pretenders, Idaho's redistricting commission readies to complete the job


In a big table in a small room on the first floor of the Capitol stand six paper tents with the names of six redistricting commissioners: Republicans Dolores Crow, Randy Hansen and Sheila Olsen, and Democrats Ron Bietelspacher, Shauneen Grange and Elmer Martinez.

The names have been reprinted since Oct. 18, when the commission agreed on plans for congressional and legislative districts. But legislative staff made no accommodation for the efforts of House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, and Idaho Republican Chairman Norm Semanko to fire Crow and Hansen, a move rebuffed by the Idaho Supreme Court late Wednesday.

Did they even print name tents for the prospective replacements, Bob Forrey of Nampa and Angela Cross of Post Falls?

"No, we didn't," said Jeff Youtz, director of the Legislative Services Office.

Shortly before the meeting began, a joint statement from Denney and Semanko suggested they may return to court, writing that "the commission will reconvene today with a cloud of uncertainty continuing to hang over it with regard to the ultimate legality of any new plan."

Hearing the statement, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said, "Why don't you put a parentheses on that and call it 'spin?' There comes a time to get it done."

Hansen entered the room, shaking hands and said, "It's good to be here." Both he and Crow refused requests by Denney and Semanko that they resign, saying they had followed their constitutional obligation to draw lines without regard to party or incumbent protection.

The commission has returned because the Supreme Court ruled last week that Twin Falls County was correct in arguing that the commission split too many counties and had to make another attempt to redraw the state's 35 legislative districts to reflect population growth in the 2000s.

The October plan, adopted unanimously, divided or split 12 counties. The commission now must work to set the standard established by the court, which appears to be seven counties.

Ada and Kootenai counties can be kept whole, while being divided into nine and four districts respectively, and still keep within the one-person, one-vote standing in the U.S. Constitution. Five other counties must be split and share districts with adjoining counties: Bonner, Canyon, Twin Falls, Bannock and Bonneville.

The commission began at 9:05 a.m. in the 17-by-21 room, C110, which has chairs for just 15 spectators, four of which were reserved: One for Ysursa, who opposed the Denney-Semanko gambit; Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst; Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane, who wrote the letter advising Ysursa that Denney and Semanko couldn't fire their appointees; and Spokane Spokesman-Review blogger extraordinaire Betsy Russell.

The commission is scheduled to spend about 85 minutes discussing the court's striking down the October plan, and about 75 minutes reviewing plans with a minimum number of county splits, completing that work about noon. After lunch, they plan to break into small groups and work on cobbling together a plan.

Commissioners have also set meetings for Friday, Saturday and Monday though Friday of next week. They have said they hope to complete their work by tomorrow. All meetings are at 9 a.m. and live-streamed on Idaho Public TV.

The commission is considering only legislative districts, which were the subject of the Supreme Court's ruling. The congressional map adopted in October is not on the table.

UPDATE, 9:45 A.M.

After hearing from Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane, Idaho's redistricters broke after 30 minutes.

They will work in groups of two or three -- below the four-member quorum -- to rework the legislative maps tossed by the Idaho Supreme Court. The commission voted 6-0 to use the map it adopted, L87, as a starting point. Their aim is to eliminate five of the 12 county splits they approved in October.

The commission had planned to spend 85 minutes on legalities, but dispensed with a review of the court's decision and Idaho's Open Meeting Law in just 30.

Initially, three commissioners -- Sheila Olsen, Ron Bietelspacher and Randy Hansen -- remained in Room C110 on the first floor of the Capitol; three others -- Dolores Crow, Shauneen Grange and Elmer Martinez -- moved to a conference room in Secretary of State Ben Ysursa's office. Those configurations could change as the commission moves through the day.

The commission reconvenes at noon in C110.

UPDATE, 12:50 p.m.

Over sack lunches, the six commissioners are reviewing the submitted plans that comply with the Supreme Court's order to split the fewest number of counties -- which the commission believes to be seven.

They are expected to return to their small group discussions later this afternoon.

UPDATE, 5:00 p.m.

Commissioners broke for the day, after reviewing seven plans that meet the Supreme Court's standard. One of those comes from Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs, who argued the winning case that tossed the October plan.

The commission reconvenes at 9 a.m. Friday.

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When it comes to congressional Districts,

DON'T SPLIT BOISE! Sorry, I shouldn't shout but...

No consideration of congressional districts

The commission is not taking up the congressional plan that divides Ada County. It was not the subject of the court's decision, which covered only the Legislature.

Dan Popkey

Speaker Denney...

Speaker Denney, you have disparaged Dolores Crow. You claim that a cloud of uncertainty hangs over her head despite a ruling by the Idaho Supreme Court. Please tell the Idaho citizens what Dolores Crow did wrong? Tell us. We're here to listen.

What did she do wrong?

She (and the other members of the commission) developed a plan that was unconstitutional. The entire commission should have resigned after that.

Tetpilot, why didn't Speaker Denney mention this?

Tetpilot, why didn't Speaker Denney mention this? Why did he focus his venom against Dolores Crow for not protecting the political interests of the majority Republican Party? I'm waiting for Speaker Denney to clarify his thinking and logic. Governors Butch Otter and Phil Batt both voiced their support for Dolores Crow's actions on the redistricting commission. I'd like to hear Speaker Denney explain himself. Idaho citizens deserve to know. We're here to listen.


once again you are full of bull whacky. The second commission's plan was developed in good faith for the citizens of the state not for political interests. There is no reason why they should have resigned after they submitted their plan. The first commission was purely and without question bent on a plan without merit and it was truly constitutional. The bottom line in all of this is no matter what plan is adopted, not everyone throughout the entire state is going to be happy but the goal is equal repreentation one vote for one citizen.

The only ones that need to be "happy" are....

the Justices on the Supreme Court. I don't give the commission members "points" for their process, their personality traits, or their party affiliation -- the product is what's important and on that they failed. They should have said, "we tried and failed, please accept our resignations." Applauding process and personality over product is irrational.

Tetpilot, what do you think about Speaker Denney's actions?

Tetpilot, what do you think about Speaker Denney's thoughts and actions on this entire matter? Do you support his opinion that Dolores Crow didn't do enough to protect the majority political party while working on a non-partisan redistricting commission? Is he entitled to seat a commission member who's objective is to bias the redistricting map in a partisan manner? Is Speaker Denney right to attempt to rig our Idaho elections? Governors Otter and Batt have been so unsettled by Speaker Denney's words and actions that they have issued statements and opinions speaking out against him. What do you think of Denney's actions?

If Tet can't find the answer on Fox or Newsmax you won't

get an answer.

"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government." Neil Peart

Tet, they are not the firs to ever present a failed plan...

they won't be the last and you haven't the clout to suggest they all be deposed.

That's a pretty dumb and selfish idea.

Join the program please.


Websites: Everytime you get it the way you're comfortable with somebody gives a monkey a rock, bottle and a dollar.

since Twin Falls county has to be split anyway

what was the issue? or are we going to go back to court again when a new plan comes out that still splits Twin Falls?