Well, back to the ol’ drawing board. Again.
The Idaho Supreme Court rejected the second attempt by Idaho’s legislative redistricting committee last week, saying it was unconstitutional because it would divide 12 of the state’s 44 counties — something not allowed unless it’s the only way to ensure all Idahoans’ votes count equally. Twin Falls County was able to convince four of the five justices that the constitutional mandate could have been met without all the county-splitting.
The first attempt to draw new district boundaries failed when the bipartisan panel of six failed to reach an agreement by the deadline in September. The second group quickly produced a 4-2 resolution, one that was good for Canyon County because it kept communities together and gave us, in essence, another district.
Not so fast, the Supreme Court said. And now comes the chain reaction:
n Canyon County Clerk Chris Yamamoto, whose office had started preparations for candidates to file based on the new maps, said he now probably won’t have things ready for the standard Feb. 17-to-March 9 filing period.
n Idaho’s Second Citizen Commission for Reapportionment is scheduled to meet again on Thursday and Friday.
n House Speaker Lawerence Denney wants to fire former Nampa state Rep. Dolores Crow because, in his opinion, she supported legislative borders that were too favorable to Democrats. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says Denney doesn’t have that authority.
n A bill introduced in the House State Affairs Committee by Iona Republican Rep. Tom Loertscher would move Idaho’s primary back to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in August.
It’s possible the redistricting commission could resolve its internal squabbles and produce a map that will pass constitutional muster quickly. But, as we’ve seen in the past, that’s not something you should hold your breath over.
Loertscher’s bill is intriguing and could be an easy sell, given the uncertainty over new legislative boundaries and the conundrum that’s going to put on county elections officials across Idaho. If the primary is bumped back two and a half months, county clerks could move their filing period back to May 21 to June 1.
However, House Bill 392 wouldn’t just make the change for this year, but permanently, and go back to the way it was before 1980. In promoting the idea, Loertscher says shortening the political season to just three months would be a good thing.
However, early August is traditionally regarded as vacation time for families, and that could hurt turnout. And, as Priest Late Republican Rep. Eric Anderson notes, moving the primary back to August would shorten the campaign season for the general election, but it would also prolong it for the primary season.
It’s a good debate, and one worth having. Maybe, for now, it would be prudent to knock the primacy back to August for this year only, and do that as soon as possible to provide some certainty to our county clerks. Then lawmakers could take their time and get feedback from voters, election officials and candidates about whether a permanent change would be good or not. They’d have two years to decide whether a permanent change should be voted on.
Idaho has already seen a lot of changes in how it conducts elections, with Republicans going to a caucus format in March to select their presidential delegates and closing their primaries to registered Republicans only. Any further major overhauls should be done with proper deliberation.