Independent commissions are to craft new districts

Lewiston Morning Tribune
May 3, 2010


Washington and Idaho will appoint independent redistricting commissions to craft new congressional and legislative districts after the decennial census.

Details on each commission:

Idaho

Redistricting was handled by the Legislature itself for most of the state's history, but voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1994 that shifted the responsibility to a six-member citizens' commission. The commission was first formed after the 2000 census.

The majority and minority leaders in the Idaho House and Senate each appoint one member of the commission. The other two are appointed by the state party chairmen of the two political parties that receive the most votes in the 2010 gubernatorial election. Elected and appointed officials are not eligible to serve as commissioners.

Once the commission is formed - probably in the spring or early summer of 2011 - it will have 90 days to craft a redistricting plan. The plan must include 30-35 legislative districts, according to the state constitution, and it must be approved by at least four commission members. Neither the Legislature nor governor can modify it, although the plan is subject to legal challenge.

Commission members receive $75 per day, plus reimbursement for food, lodging and travel. Public hearings will likely be held around the state so citizens and interest groups can offer their input. The 2011 budget appropriates $424,000 for redistricting that includes staff support, as well as software programs so people can create their own redistricting maps and proposals for the commission to review.

Washington

Voters amended the state constitution in 1983 to shift redistricting responsibility from the Legislature to a five-member citizens' commission.

The majority and minority leader of the House and Senate each appoint one commission member those four voting members then appoint a fifth, nonvoting member, to serve as chair. As with Idaho, there are restrictions regarding who can serve as a commissioner.

The commission will be created by Jan. 31, 2011, and must complete its task by Jan. 1 of the following year. The plan is limited to 49 legislative districts, as established by the Legislature. It must be approved by at least three commission members. The Legislature can, with a two-thirds vote, make minor modifications to the plan after it's completed however, district populations can't be changed by more than 2 percent.

The commission will take public input prior to approving a final plan.

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