As Idaho’s citizen redistricting commission started its task of drawing new legislative and congressional districts for the state last week, one confusing question loomed: What does it mean to split a county?
A decade ago, the Idaho Supreme Court invalidated a legislative district plan submitted by the second redistricting commission established that year, finding that it split too many Idaho counties. By the court majority’s count, that plan split 12 counties. The finally approved plan split seven.
But among the seven that were considered split were two, Ada and Kootenai, that were split only internally. That means those counties, which have far too many residents to be a single legislative district, were divided, with three districts fully contained within Kootenai County in North Idaho, and nine districts fully contained within Ada County in the Treasure Valley.
“I can’t currently fathom the argument of where it’s split within the county, why that would even matter,” commented Bart Davis, the co-chair of this year’s commission, as the commissioners discussed the issue last week.
In fact, the Idaho Constitution says that's just fine. But county splits, what they mean and how to minimize them are among the top concerns redistricters must take into account, under a 2012 Idaho Supreme Court decision. I explore the issue in my Sunday column this week; you can read my full column here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up today's Sunday/Monday Idaho Press.