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Despite independent commission, report gives ID redistricting 'D' grade

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Eric Tegethoff

(Northern Rockies News Service) Idaho received a poor grade in a recent report analyzing redistricting in the state, but it has made the process fairer than many other states.

The nonpartisan elections watchdog Common Cause gives Idaho a grade of 'D' for its process of redrawing voting district lines, which happens when states receive census data and use it to map the borders of legislative districts.

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Elinor Chehey, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Idaho, noted one positive feature of redistricting in the state is its use of an independent commission.

"It isn't a situation like some legislatures where the majority can just bulldoze the minority or racial groups," Chehey observed.

The report showed Native American tribes expressed disappointment with the commission's lack of response to keeping their communities whole in the final maps. It also suggested the state could have done a better job including the public.

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Dan Vicuna, national redistricting director for Common Cause, said in past decades, redistricting was a relatively unknown and unscrutinized process. However, Vicuna believes the public is increasingly connecting the shape of voting maps to their fight for resources.

"The public understands that whether you're kept in one district with a community that shares concerns of all sorts can really make the difference between having a champion in the halls of power, or not having a champion," Vicuna contended.

Vicuna added the states faring best in the report are the ones taking redistricting out of the hands of legislators in favor of independent, bipartisan commissions. California and Massachusetts scored the highest grades, with an 'A-.'

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.