One person, one vote
COEUR d’ALENE — Citizens of Kootenai County, it’s time to have your say as Idaho’s Citizen Commission for Reapportionment considers how to redraw the state’s congressional and legislative districts.
The commission is holding a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Room 106 of the Meyer Health and Sciences Building on the North Idaho College campus.
The six-member, bipartisan commission is charged with reshaping the legislative and congressional districts in Idaho to align with the results of the 2010 federal census.
Similar meetings are being held throughout the state.
“Attendance has been good,” said Keith Bybee, a member of the Legislative Service Office’s non-partisan staff assigned to work with the Commission.
Roughly 50 citizens have turned out to hearings in Boise, Pocatello and Caldwell.
“They’re going to have to look hard at the scope of the entire Panhandle,” Bybee said.
Redistricting in 2001 left District 2 as an area that looks like a reverse letter “C” with Districts 3, 4 and 5 right in the middle.
Coeur d’Alene contractor and former legislator Dean Haagenson was on that earlier commission, and he’s still not happy with the way District 2 was drawn.
“Redistricting is a challenge wherever you are, but think about a state shaped like Idaho, and then you have to have compact districts, within 10 percent population of each other, keep cities intact, keep communities of interest intact,” Haagenson said.
The commission in 2001 had two previous plans that were struck down by the Idaho Supreme Court because some of the district’s populations were just slightly over the 10 percent variance allowed.
“Putting southern Bonner County with Kootenai County made sense to me, but we couldn’t do it,” Haagenson said. “We ended up having to go around Kootenai County with a very unwieldy district that covers Shoshone, Benewah and Bonner counties, all three.”
Changing district boundaries can also result in incumbents having to run against each other for election, Haagenson said.
It happened in Kootenai County when Haagenson was on the committee. Now Rep. Kathy Sims and Sen. John Goedde, both Republicans, were sitting senators at the time, and had to face each other at election time.
“But that’s not supposed to be a consideration. You’re supposed to work for the people of Idaho and not worry about the incumbency,” Haagenson said.
The current commission was officially convened by the Idaho Secretary of State on June 7, and has 90 days to create the new districts.
Redistricting will be determined by taking the new total population of Idaho and dividing it by 35, the highest number of districts allowed. Idaho law does allow for the number of districts to be reduced to 30, but no less.
Idaho is one of a handful of states where politicians are not the ones reshaping the boundaries of election districts.
That wasn’t always the case.
Before 2001, Idaho legislators redrew the districts. With voter approval, the Idaho Constitution was amended in the ‘90s to exclude lawmakers from the process.
Idaho’s redistricting is now led by citizens — three Republicans and three Democrats — appointed by the Senate pro tem, the speaker of the House of Representatives, the Senate minority leader and the House minority leader. The chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties will make one appointment each.
The co-chairs of the commission are former lawmakers from Pocatello, Republican Sen. Evan Frasure and Rep. Allen Anderson, a Democrat.
Rathdrum resident and Post Falls business owner, Lorna Finman, is the only North Idaho commissioner. Finman, a physicist, was appointed by Idaho Republican Party Chair Norm Semanko.
Census data, proposed maps and faqs about the redistricting process can be found on the state's redistricting website.
By visiting the state’s website, citizens can also use “Maptitude” computer software to generate their own proposed legislative and congressional district maps.