Idahoans from across the state will get one more chance to share their thoughts with the state’s bipartisan redistricting commission before commissioners shift their focus to redrawing the state’s political boundaries.
Redistricting commissioners will accept remote testimony virtually online and via telephone during a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Statehouse.
Over the past five weeks, commissioners have staged public hearings in 16 different Idaho cities and towns. Tuesday’s virtual hearing marks a chance for anyone who wasn’t able to attend one of the regional hearings to share their thoughts.
Redistricting is the process of using new census data to update Idaho’s two congressional districts and 35 legislative districts. The process takes place every decade and is intended to ensure political representation is as equal as possible. This year's redistricting process will use data from the 2020 census.
Idaho experienced significant growth over the past 10 years, and was the second-fastest growing state in the country behind Utah, according to the census. However, that growth was divided and uneven across the state, which is why the old boundaries need to be tossed out and redrawn.
Thus far, commissions have been interested in hearing from Idahoans about how their local communities should be represented.
“You learn a lot about the different areas,” commissioner Eric Redman said in a Sept. 30 interview. “I know my area in the far north and so I like to hear from the other areas. I’m a little frustrated about the county split thing, I don’t think that actually helps out our communities of interest.”
For instance, Meridian Mayor Robert Simison told commissioners during a hearing last month that Meridian’s growth justifies having two legislative districts that are “central to Meridian and really represent the community.”
Since convening Sept. 1, commissioners have produced three proposed “rough draft” type maps. Commissioners proposed two congressional maps and one legislative map.
Commission co-chairman Dan Schmidt said commissioners will use input from the public hearings to improve upon the rough maps they already proposed. However, he has warned the complicated nature of the process makes it so not everyone will be happy with the finished redistricting plan.
In the end, it takes a minimum of four votes from the six-member commission to approve a map. The commission is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans.
One of the proposed congressional maps splits Ada County, the state’s most populated county, between the two congressional districts. The other proposed congressional map would place Ada County and the entire Treasure Valley in the first congressional district. For the past 10 years, Ada County has been split between the two districts.
Each of the maps commissioners have proposed, as well as more than 75 maps created by the public, are available to view under the “maps” tab on the redistricting commission’s website, legislature.idaho.gov/redistricting/2021.
By law, commissioners have until Nov. 30 to submit their finalized maps and redistricting plan to the state.
The new maps will determine which congressional and legislative districts Idahoans live in and whom they can vote for in the 2022 elections.
Originally published Oct. 11 at IdahoCapitalSun.com.