BOISE, Idaho — Idaho's 2021 Commission on Reapportionment has approved new maps delineating the Gem State's 35 legislative districts and two congressional districts, based on population numbers from the 2020 census.
The votes came Friday afternoon, following more than two months of meetings around Idaho and at the state capitol in Boise.
The six-member bipartisan redistricting panel posted the third drafts of its legislative and congressional maps on Thursday. The panel on Friday voted unanimously for the legislative plan, and 4-2 in favor of the congressional plan. Co-chair Dan Schmidt and Commissioner Nels Mitchell voted against it.
To find which district you live in under the latest redistricting plan, check out the interactive maps posted online for both the congressional and legislative boundaries that the commission voted to adopt Friday.
The new maps are based on 2020 census numbers. Idaho has been one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. Commissioners have examined where that growth occurred and worked to create legislative districts roughly equal in population of about 52,000, and congressional districts that will each include more than 900,000 people.
The commission had planned to vote Nov. 10, but moved that up after a member was diagnosed with COVID-19. That commissioner and two other commissioners participated remotely in Friday's meeting.
Schmidt, a physician and former Democratic state senator from Moscow, said Friday that in light of the situation, the commission felt the need "to progress expeditiously with our work, and we felt our work was mostly completed."
Commissioners on Wednesday morning discussed how to redraw the line between Idaho's two congressional districts. Despite the state's substantial growth from the 2010 census (1,567,582) to the 2020 census (1,839,106), Idaho will not receive a third seat in the U.S. House this decade.
Since 1971, Ada County has been split between the First and Second congressional districts. On Wednesday, commissioners discussed whether to continue with that in the new plan, or go in a direction that would keep the entirety of each county in one district or another.
Schmidt on Wednesday spoke in favor of something along the lines of a proposal submitted by former State Sen. Branden Durst that draws a very jagged north-south dividing line that doesn't split any counties.
Mitchell said earlier this fall, a majority of testimony at redistricting meetings around Idaho supported a congressional map that kept counties whole. As for those who testified in favor of splitting counties, Mitchell said the "vast majority" of that testimony expressed a desire to split Ada County or the city of Boise on the grounds that those communities were "too powerful."
During Wednesday morning's discussion, commissioners noted the difficult balancing act of drawing a map that doesn't split individual counties and "communities of interest" and what co-chair Bart Davis called "getting to zero" -- setting equal numbers between the districts, abiding by the U.S. Constitution's principle of equal protection and representation for every citizen, written in the 14th Amendment.
"The desire to get to zero (population deviation) is motivation to go a different direction, not to enhance or weaken a political party," Davis said, adding that partisanship is "not a factor at all in my mind as to how it relates to how you draw a district line."
Commissioners on Wednesday generally agreed that equal protection and representation is most important, and continued discussion on a plan that would continue to split Ada County between the First and Second districts. However, as occurred in 2000 and 2010, that line will again move west of where it is now. Davis drew a line down Highway 55 south to Highway 44/State Street, then west to Eagle Road, continuing south to Victory Road, then east along Victory to where the road meets Interstate 84.
The 35-district legislative map approved Friday comes with some notable changes for the Treasure Valley, changes that could result in sitting lawmakers running against each other in 2022. Star, which has been in District 14, would instead be in District 10 with part of Canyon County. A small portion of the Star city limits is west of the Ada-Canyon county line.
The Ada County city of Eagle and the entirety of Gem County would be grouped together in District 14. Gem County is currently in District 8, with Valley, Custer and Boise counties.
Under the proposed new map, Elmore County would join Valley, Custer and Boise counties in District 8. Right now, Elmore is in District 23 with Owyhee County. The proposed new map puts Kuna, Melba and some unincorporated areas of southern Ada and Canyon counties with Owyhee County in District 23.
The maximum allowed deviation - or difference in district populations - is 10%; the latest draft of the legislative map is well within that limit, and the latest draft of the congressional map is dead even, with zero deviation.
Commissioners plan to present their final report on Wednesday, Nov. 10, nearly three weeks ahead of the deadline for that report, which is Nov. 30.
"We've tried to do our best to balance the needs and interests of the communities we are working with as well as the law that is before us," Schmidt said Friday just before the commission voted on the redistricting plans. "We went into this process knowing that our task could not make everybody happy, and we don't expect it will, but we do believe that we have done service."
Unless there's a successful court challenge, the redistricting plans approved by the commission will take effect for the 2022 election, and remain in effect for ten years, until after the 2030 census.
Under Idaho law, any registered voter may appeal a congressional or legislative redistricting plan to the Idaho Supreme Court.
More information about this year's redistricting process, including maps proposed by the commission and by other citizens, is on the commission's website.
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