Three Democrats and three Republicans go into a room. Although it sounds like the beginning of a punch line, it is currently the reality of the Citizens’ Commission for Redistricting, which is charged with the heavy responsibility to redraw Idaho’s Congressional and Legislative district boundaries. The Commission has spent the last 2 weeks proposing and debating plans.
Unfortunately, the press coverage so far has been more about which plans benefit which party, rather than the merits of the plans. Perhaps the merit is less entertaining than the partisan theater, but as the Democratic members of this Citizens’ Commission, we would like to take this opportunity to share with the public why our proposals are better for Idaho.
Our Congressional plans create clear, well-known and distinguishable lines. As many people testified, the current Congressional line (often described as “somewhere out there by Cole Road”) confuses voters and can discourage participation. Our first plan (C-34) used I-84 and Homedale Road as the divide, two well- known roads– two direct lines, no squiggles or cut outs. After proposing this plan, Republicans asserted that the plan cut Canyon County unnecessarily and would be challenged in court. In the spirit of compromise, we went back to the drawing board.
Our next proposal (C-37) kept as many counties whole as possible but made a small square cut of Ada County using Ten Mile, McMillan, I-84 and the county line. The cut impacts the outskirts of the City of Meridian, but all other cities remained whole, another frequent request from the public. This plan also insured that both Congressional Districts had the same number of people (1 person difference). To reach this, we moved all of Canyon and Owyhee counties into Congressional District 2 (CD2) and Lemhi and Custer counties into Congressional District 1 (CD1).
Our plan is easier for the public to know exactly where the lines are, a big plus for Idaho’s voters. Although our counterparts have proposed various versions of an east-west cut of Ada County (some easier to understand than others), none of their plans cut as few times as ours, nor are they as easy to understand or explain.
Our proposal also separates the highest areas of growth in our state into different districts, Ada and Canyon counties. In doing so, this proposal better safe guards the guiding principle of one person one vote, the core reason we redistrict to begin with. While the Commission is not required to consider potential growth in their maps, it would be simple-minded not to do so. The Commission is not mandated to follow traditional lines, especially when it doesn’t make sense for the State.
Our plan also better combines communities of interest in Idaho. Like most of Northern Idaho, Lemhi and Custer County would be able to easily relate to the challenges of natural resources and federal land issues. This flip also connects the agricultural counties of Owyhee and Canyon with similar interests in CD2. Admittedly, both districts will still have a bit of both issues, but our proposal does better combining like-minded communities, which makes for better representation.
Further, this plan makes CD1 more compact and balances the travel time for Idaho’s Congressmen, improving representation and accessibility. Currently, it takes about 12 hours to travel from the Northern to the Southern Border of CD1. Under our proposal, it would take about 9 hours (about 7 ½ in CD2 for an east-west trip). Due the remote nature of Idaho, traveling statewide can be a challenge for any public official. Yet, for those who have the desire to meet with constituents, there is a road to take them there.
Our legislative district proposal was also introduced before we adjourned this week (L28). This map was designed to divide as few counties as possible, upholding the Constitutional requirement, and to incorporate as much public input as possible. There are many public proposals of maps, but often those proposals create lines without regard to county boundaries. The Constitution prohibits that luxury for the Commission. We look forward to the feedback on this plan.
At the end of the day, we are willing to compromise to a plan if it has the merits we’ve laid out above. Let’s cut a map that is best for Idaho and let the political chips fall where they land. It’s an honor to serve on this Commission and protect the effectiveness of your vote.
To learn more about redistricting, watch past meetings or view proposed maps, visit http://legislature.idaho.gov/redistricting/redistricting.htm.
Co-Chair Allen Andersen of Pocatello, George Moses of Boise, and Julie Kane of Lapwai