Every decade, the national one-person-one-vote principle needs to be geographically rebalanced. This summer, Idaho will begin redrawing state legislative and Congressional districts to account for migration in and out and around the state. As one of the fastest growing states, Idaho has more migration to manage. But as one of the more enlightened states when it comes to redistricting, Idaho uses a bipartisan commission to draw district lines, rather than some more baldly political processes used in other states.
The Redistricting Commission is charged with drawing district lines that are reasonably compact, respect city and county political boundaries, respect logical geographic and natural boundaries, and respects the law. As a bipartisan Commission, it will also need to avoid gerrymandering and stacking the deck in favor of any particular party or incumbent. It won’t be easy. (The Redistricting Commission has provided census data and mapping software on its website if you want to give it a try yourself.)
New lines for Congressional districts are not likely to affect north Idaho, as the entire panhandle is expected to remain in the 1st Congressional district. However, new lines in legislative districts are likely to shift significantly. Census data shows a significant migration away from rural areas and into more urban and suburban areas. Kootenai County and the Rathdrum Prairie cities kept pace with Idaho’s overall growth, but Shoshone and Clearwater Counties lost residents and Boundary, Bonner and Benewah counties grew at a somewhat slower rate than the rest of the state. The result is that the more rural panhandle — consisting of Districts 1 through 8 — has lost about half of a legislative district.
To rebalance, lines in District 1 need to shift south into District 2. But District 2 needs to grow significantly to make up for the population lost. Eventually, somewhere, an incumbent is likely to be squeezed out of his or her current district and into another one.
We don’t have a particular dog in the fight. But we do understand what an important fight it is.
The Commission will be holding hearings throughout the state, and hearings in North Idaho are scheduled for this Wednesday. (Sandpoint from 2-4 pm at the Sandpoint High School Auditorium, Coeur d’Alene’s from 7-9 pm at Meyers Health and Sciences Building at NIC.)