Treasure Valley public input sought in redistricting meetings

by Logan Finney, Idaho Reports 

The 2021 Idaho Commission for Reapportionment holds its first public input meetings this week, seeking feedback from communities in the Treasure Valley as the commission designs new legislative and congressional districts following the 2020 census.

“The Commission would like to hear testimony regarding areas of local community interests including demographics, economics, geography, population trends and political and historical factors,” according to the meeting notices.

Meeting schedule

Wednesday, Sept. 15
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Caldwell Public Library
Dean E. Miller Community Room
1010 Dearborn St, Caldwell, ID 83605
Wednesday, Sept. 15
7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Nampa City Hall
City Council Chambers
411 3rd Street S., Nampa, ID 83651
Thursday, Sept. 16
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Meridian City Hall
City Council Chambers
33 E. Broadway Ave., Meridian, ID 83642
Thursday, Sept. 16
7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Idaho State Capitol
Lincoln Auditorium
700 W. Jefferson St., Boise, ID 83702
Friday, Sept. 17
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Eagle City Hall
City Council Chambers
660 E. Civic Lane, Eagle, ID 83616

Legislative districts
The population of the Treasure Valley has grown enough since the last census for Ada and Canyon counties to pick up an additional legislative district. However, that population growth has not been consistent across the region; the current District 14, for example, is 36% above the new ideal district population of 52,546 people.

Ada County currently has nine districts contained fully within the county. Canyon County contains four full districts, while a northern area of the county is assigned to District 9 with Adams, Payette and Washington counties.

courtesy Legislative Services Office

The state constitution locks the legislative map at 35 districts, so a new urban district could mean one fewer district for rural areas. 

The commission’s discussions on a proposal map have included the possibility of grouping southern parts of Ada and Canyon counties with Owyhee County as a new district. That idea would undo the current map configuration that puts northern Canyon County into District 9 and groups Owyhee and Elmore counties with a portion of Twin Falls County in District 23.

Alternatively, some of Canyon County could remain in a district with the counties north of it. None of the commission’s plans are set in stone, and the proposal maps are only meant to spark discussion at the public meetings.

“We hope that with everybody’s input we can do a better job,” commissioner Bart Davis said last week.

Congressional districts

Idaho holds two of the 435 congressional seats in the House of Representatives. The state’s population did not grow enough relative to the other states to gain a third representative this decade.

Congressional districts must be as close in population as possible to adhere to the “one person, one vote” principle. Idaho’s congressional district boundary currently divides the heavily populated Ada County between the two districts, despite a state constitutional requirement to avoid splitting counties and communities of interest whenever possible.

courtesy Ada County Mapper GIS

The existing boundary line travels south along State Highway 55 from the county border to Eagle city limits, then south along North Horseshoe Bend Road to the Boise River, then east along the river to North Glenwood Street. The line then moves south along Glenwood, northwest along Chinden Boulevard, south along Cloverdale Road to I-84, and finally follows the interstate southeast to the county line.

Data from the 2020 census shows that the first congressional district is currently 35,388 people larger than the second congressional district.

The redistricting commission could simply straighten the boundary line to move 35,388 Ada County residents from CD1 to CD2. Alternatively, they could draw an entirely new line that does not divide any counties but creates districts with a slight population deviation. 

Ada County has a much larger population than any other county in the state, which means a congressional district that fully contains it would be geographically smaller than the other district.

One map submitted by a member of the public that puts all of Ada County in CD1 (population deviation 1,556 people)

Public Input

The public meetings will begin with an introduction of the six commissioners, a review of constitutional and legal requirements for the new districts, and a presentation of the commission’s early draft maps.

The early draft maps are simply a starting point to inspire public feedback, and creating the drafts allowed the commissioners to get more experience with the mapping software.

The meetings will be livestreamed on Idaho Public Television’s Idaho in Session service.

The commission will hold more public meetings in northern Idaho the week of September 19, in the Magic Valley the week of September 26, and in eastern Idaho the week of October 3. 

Idaho Reports will continue to follow the commission as exact times and locations for those meetings are announced.

Citizens can also visit to submit written testimony or draw proposal maps.

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