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Redistricting Guidelines


  • Congressional districts should be mathematically equal, unless justified by a “legitimate state objective.”1
  • There shall be not less than thirty nor more than thirty-five legislative districts in the State of Idaho.2
  • Legislative districts should not differ in population by more than ten percent unless justified by a “rational state policy.” 3 An example of a “rational state policy” might be avoiding dividing political subdivisions. BUT ten percent is not a “safe harbor” if there other indications of systematic favoring of one party over another in drawing districts. Such districts will be struck down as violating the Equal Protection Clause.4 On the other hand, merely showing that an alternative plan with a lower overall range could be used was not in itself sufficient to require invalidation of a plan.5 A legislative redistricting plan that has more than a ten percent deviation is presumptively unconstitutional.6
  • Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act provided that no state or jurisdiction could abridge the right to vote on account of race or color. The interpretation of what this section requires has been subject to many judicial interpretations and legislative changes over the decades. Most recently, in 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the North Carolina Supreme Court in holding that, in considering potential district populations as violative of Section 2, only voting age citizens should be considered, and that only a majority-minority district is necessary where possible (no coalition, crossover, or influence districts need be attempted).7
  • Gerrymandering: The creation of bizarrely-shaped districts in order to string together voters of a particular race will be given strict scrutiny by the courts and struck down if race was the predominant factor in the creation of the districts. Further, oddly-shaped districts for ANY reason are disfavored under Idaho law.8
  • Legislative districts in Idaho should, as much as possible:
    • Avoid dividing counties: “A county may [not] be divided and aligned with other counties to achieve ideal district size if that ideal district size may be achieved by internal division of the county.”9 If a division is necessary, the counties being melded must be contiguous10 and connected by a highway.11
    • Preserve communities of interest and traditional neighborhoods;12
    • Maintain local voting precinct boundaries.13
  • Legislative districts in Idaho must:
    • Be drawn using U.S. Census population data;14
    • Not divide counties in order to protect an incumbent or party;15
    • Not be floterial districts.16

1Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725 (1983).
2Idaho Constitution, Art. III, Sec. 4.
3Gafney v. Cummings, 412 U.S. 735 (1973); White v. Regester, 412 U.S. 755 (1973).
4Larios v. Cox, 300 F. Supp.2d 1320 (N.D. Ga. 2004), aff’d, 542 U.S. 947 (2004)
5Gaffney, supra, at 755.
6Smith v. Idaho Comm’n on Redistricting, 136 Idaho 542 (2001).
7Bartlett v. Strickland, 556 U.S. 1 (2009).
8Idaho Code 72-1506(4)
9Bingham County v. Comm’n for Reapportionment, 137 Idaho 870, 874 (2002).
10Idaho Code 72-1506(5) and (6).
11Idaho Code 72-1506(9)
12Idaho Code 72-1506(2)
13Idaho Code 72-1506(7)
14Idaho Code 72-1506(1)
15Idaho Code 72-1506(8)
16Idaho Constitution Art. III, Sec. 5. Floterial districts are districts that overlay several other distinct legislative districts.