Idaho Commission on Reapportionment meets, begins work

Commission for Reapportionment
Posted at 7:36 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 10:02:55-04

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Commission on Reapportionment began the process to redraw Idaho's legislative and Congressional districts Wednesday in its first meeting.

Redistricting happens every 10 years based off of Census data.

This can impact what candidates Idaho residents will have the choice of voting for in the 2022 election and every election for the next ten years.

The Commission is made up of three Republicans and three Democrats. Republican Bart Davis is a former state senator and former U.S. attorney for the District of Idaho. Republicans Eric Redman and Tom Dayley are both former state representatives. Democrat Nels Mitchell is a lawyer and ran for U.S. Senate. Democrat Amber Pence is a special assistant to the Teton County Board of Commissioners. And Democrat Dan Dchmidt is a former state senator.

After being sworn in at the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting, the commissioners voted Davis and Schmidt to be co-chairs.

The way redistricting is done varies from state to state. In Idaho, the independent commission, formed for 90 days is in charge of redrawing district lines. The Commission has 90 days to submit its final report.

In Wednesday's meeting, Dr. Gary Moncrief, a University Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Boise State University, shared a history of redistricting in Idaho and some of the current challenges the Commissioners will face.

“It’s a challenge in the west in particular given the small legislatures, the rapid growth and the population the population distribution in the west is much more skewed than it is in other places,” Moncrief said.

He said for Idaho, the specific challenges include the population growth and distribution, but also the odd shape of the state, the fact that Idaho is locked into having 35 Legislative districts and that there are specific rules and how and when counties can be split.

During Wednesday’s meeting two former Commissioners, Randy Hansen and Ron Beitelspacher, shared advice with the Commission. They were both part of the second 2011 Commission on Reapportionment, which was formed after the first Commission could not meet the 90 day deadline.

"Who this is all about is not these legislators who are sitting up there in those leather chairs. Who this is all about are those taxpayers and those citizens out there who deserve their voices to be heard," Beitelspacher said.

They also gave more specific advice about things like making sure a district line doesn't divide a house.

"You relied on those commissioners from those areas to help you in that but you try to make sure that there weren't any politics involved," Beitelspacher said.

The Commission is scheduled to meet this Thursday and Friday to work on drawing new district lines. There will also be meetings with the public across the state to hear testimony and feedback, but those meetings have not been scheduled yet.

A program that allows the public to draw their own district lines and share it with the commission is now available.