Sho-Ban tribes challenge state redistricting
FORT HALL — In response to legislative redistricting plan they believe robs residents of their electoral voice, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have partnered with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe to challenge the state of Idaho.
At a news conference Friday, Fort Hall Business Council lead attorney Bill Bacon described the challenge jointly filed by the tribes Thursday. The current redistricting plan, would further split Fort Hall amongst Bannock, Bingham and Power counties.
“We challenged the map that split the tribal community up into three different areas,” Bacon said. “Our challenge is to put as many tribal voters into one district as we can.”
According to Idaho State Constitution and Idaho statute, Bacon said, Idaho Commission for Reapportionment must “protect communities of interest.”
“The Fort Hall Reservation and the tribal people are a community of interest,” he said.
Fort Hall Business Council Chair Devon Boyer said the redistricting plan is a threat to tribal members’ rights.
“It doesn’t allow us to have representation,” Boyer said.
Documents provided to EastIdahoNews.com by the council state that election boundaries must be redrawn every 10 years, based on census data. It is the responsibility of the reapportionment commission to keep district populations “substantially equal” but also, as Bacon said, to keep communities of interest intact.
According to Bacon, the redistribution of tribal votes based on the tribes’ request would be within the parameters of the allowed population variance.
In a statement included in the documents, Chief James Allan, chair of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, spoke to the shortcomings of the current plan.
“This district does not consider the tribal community members or any community of interest, for that matter,” he said. “Our communities deserve responsive, local representation by citizens who are familiar with the needs of their constituents and who are accessible to their constituents.”
Bacon said the challenge filed by the joint tribes requests that tribal member voters be redistricted into a single county.
The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have requested that their voters be assigned to Bingham County, which council members say has formed a more productive relationship with the tribes than other surrounding counties.
Bacon told EastIdahoNews.com that the challenge includes a proposed redistricting map drawn up by the tribes.
“What our map would do is take that Bingham County line and move it down to northern Bannock County to give the tribe (a louder voice),” he said.
Jurisdictional lines divided the reservation’s votes without permission from the tribal council, Boyer added.
“The only way that the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are going to feel that we’re properly represented is by making sure that we’re collectively in the same area, with proper representation,” he said.
Shoshone-Bannock Tribe Public Affairs Manager Randy’L Teton put out a call to all state lawmakers.
“The State Legislature and the congressional redistricting is a difficult and highly controversial concept for our tribe,” she said. “It is our intent to have an equal voice and an opportunity to elect local representatives that consider and represent our tribal needs and interests.”
The joint tribes are scheduled for a hearing before the State Supreme Court on Jan. 14.