BOISE — Idaho’s citizen redistricting commission will hold public hearings in each region of the state over the next month and a half, plus a remote-access hearing, with an eye to finishing its work in October, at least a full month before its late-November deadline.
The hearing schedule has “a target of having our first serious plan done and voted on by the middle of October,” Bart Davis, commission co-chair, said Thursday morning. “That’s very ambitious, and I acknowledge that we may be still working on that for another week or two after that, but that’s at least the initial target I get a sense we’re going to work towards.”
The six-member commission unanimously approved the tentative hearing schedule during its Thursday meeting; then it moved on to exploring, training and trying out its Maptitude district-drawing software. As staffers demonstrated the software for the committee, commissioners asked various specific questions.
Among them: How many people are now in the small chunk of southern Bonner County that’s split off from District 1 and appended onto the giant, multi-county District 7, which also takes in all of Shoshone, Clearwater and Idaho counties?
The answer: Almost 6,000 people. Currently, District 1, which takes in the rest of Bonner County and Boundary County to its north, has slightly more population than the ideal district size for the next round of redistricting, at 53,378. That’s 832 more than the ideal size, or 1.58%.
Commissioners also asked about eastern Idaho district lines and what various changes they would produce, as they begin getting comfortable with the process of moving lines around and seeing what results.
Here is the tentative public hearing schedule the commission approved on Thursday:
• Treasure Valley: The week of Sept. 13-17. That likely would include hearings in Boise, Meridian, Eagle, Nampa and Caldwell.
• North Idaho: The week of Sept. 20-24. Commissioners are looking at likely hearings in Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene, Moscow and Lewiston.
• Central Idaho, including the Magic Valley and Wood River Valley: The week of Sept. 27-Oct. 1. That could include hearings in Twin Falls, Mountain Home and Hailey.
• Eastern Idaho: The week of Oct. 4-8. That likely would include hearings in Rexburg, Idaho Falls and Pocatello.
• Remote-Access hearing: The week of Oct. 11-15, likely on Tuesday, Oct. 12. That Boise-based hearing would offer remote access for testimony from people anywhere in the state, something that likely won’t be available when the commission is on the road in the various other locations.
“That’s something we need to provide as an accommodation for folks who can’t travel, can’t make the meetings,” said commission staffer Keith Bybee.
Commissioner Tom Dayley said for the Boise-area hearings, “We need to make sure we accommodate time-period slots that people in the metro areas can come.”
Dayley said he attended a Meridian city planning and zoning hearing last week, to get a feel for the dynamic of a big public hearing. “They had a lot of public comment at the meeting,” he said. “One of the things the commissioners did, to their credit, is they listened a lot.”
“We need to convey to them we are listening,” Dayley said, “and we do want those comments and we are interested in those comments.”
Under a 1994 constitutional amendment approved by Idaho voters, the bipartisan commission is in charge of drawing new legislative and congressional district lines to match up with the results of the most recent Census, to ensure the one-person, one-vote principle is preserved in Idaho elections amid population shifts.
Those shifts likely will mean at least one additional Idaho county must be split in the next legislative district map, beyond the seven already split in the current one; the commission also is charged with minimizing county splits as it draws new districts. Given population shifts, “Latah, Nez Perce or Idaho seem to make the most sense,” Bybee said, but that’ll be up to the commission.