Idaho Redistricting Commission Has 5 Of 6 Members

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Five of the six appointments are in for a commission that will redraw Idaho’s 35 legislative districts from which voters select the state’s 105 lawmakers for the next 10 years.

The bipartisan Idaho Commission for Reapportionment that also draws the state’s two Congressional districts will ultimately have three Democrats and three Republicans. The commission is answerable only to the courts.

Democrats announced their picks Tuesday. Republicans previously announced their picks, but one had to withdraw because his recent work as a lobbyist disqualified him. A replacement pick is expected.

The commission is facing a tight deadline this year because of a delay in getting 2020 census population information. The state expects to get the numbers by mid-August. The commission then has 90 days to approve new district boundaries based on the new census numbers.

Because districts are in part based on population, fast-growing areas could gain a district, while slower-growing areas could see portions of districts merged. That could lead to sitting lawmakers ending up in a newly-formed district.

At least two-thirds of the commissioners must approve a redistricting map. Decisions and impasses by past reapportionment commissions leading to lawsuits have led to concern that redistricting this year could be delayed even further.

The majority and minority party leaders in each legislative chamber each select one person to serve on the commission. The state chairs of the Republican and Democratic parties also each select a commissioner.

Democrats on Tuesday announced their selections.

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett named Dan Schmidt, a physician from Moscow who has practiced family medicine for more than three decades.

House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel named Amber Pence, who works as a special assistant to the Teton County Board of County Commissioners.

Idaho Democratic Party Chair Fred Cornforth named Nels Mitchell, a former professor at the University of Idaho College of Law. He unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

“When Idaho voters established an independent redistricting commission in 1994, they created a model for the nation," Stennett, Rubel and Cornforth said in a statement. “As appointing authorities, protecting the integrity of the commission is our top priority in selecting commissioners. These individuals share our commitment to a fair and independent redistricting process.”

For Republicans, Senate Pro Tempore Chuck Winder named former Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, who is also a former U.S. attorney for the District of Idaho.

“Senator Davis brings years of legislative and legal experience to the Commission,” Winder said in a statement. “His thoughtful leadership style will encourage positive outcomes from the Commission."

GOP Chairman Tom Luna named former Rep. Eric Redman. Redman represented District 2 in northern Idaho from 2014 to 2018.

House Speaker Scott Bedke also made a selection who later withdrew because his recent work as a lobbyist disqualified him. Bedke has not yet announced a new selection.

The current system of an independent redistricting commission was created by voters by constitutional amendment in 1994.

Republicans tried to change the process in 2019 by putting forward legislation for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have added a seventh member selected by the governor, lieutenant governor, state controller, state treasurer and superintendent of public instruction, all positions held then and now by Republicans.

The proposal failed after Democrats used procedural rules to slow House business, leading to the proposal being shelved.