New Map, New Representation: What redistricting means for Idaho’s legislature

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New Map, New Representation

It’s no secret that Idaho is changing. And with the massive growth in our state’s population comes changes to our representation in government. 

The decennial census in 2020 was a crucial moment for Idaho. Not only is the census key to bringing in essential resources to communities to pay for things like school lunches, public parks, and public transportation – it is instrumental in creating the foundation of our democracy. The census is the first step in redistricting, a once-per-decade process that re-draws our legislative map to ensure our representation changes alongside our state, and to maintain the one-person-one-vote system.

Every ten years, states use data collected from the census to redraw their legislative maps. Idaho is frozen at 35 legislative districts, meaning each district needs to have roughly the same number of residents. With big changes in our population, there came big changes to the legislative map.

In fall of 2021, the redistricting commission, made up of three Republicans and three Democrats (to protect against gerrymandering) voted to solidify a new legislative map. The Commission spent weeks looking at census data, hearing public comment, and finally adopting a new map. Because of the population boom of the past few years, including migration from rural places to urban ones, the legislative map looks very different today than it did in 2011.

With the redrawing of the legislative lines, many incumbents found themselves slotted into the same district. Allies had to decide whether to run against each other in the primary election, or to step down, retire, or run for a different office. Several seats were left vacant – meaning there was no incumbent in the role after redistricting changed the map. Some of these newly drawn districts are massive in size to adhere to Idaho’s strict rules on redistricting, which requires nearly equal population between each district. 

The result of the redistricting process will mean a very different legislature in 2023. Idaho will have a lot more incoming legislators who are serving for the first time. There will also be familiar faces now representing new constituents, and a few folks who were untouched by the redistricting process, all of which will force some change in the Statehouse chambers. In important committees like JFAC (Joint Finance and Appropriations, where the state’s budgets are decided), the turnover will be at 40%.

What does this mean? This election is a turning point on Idaho’s political path. Idahoans have an opportunity to reset the stage with their vote, so make sure you have a plan to participate in the election – whether voting early, absentee, or at the polls November 8th. If you need any help with the voting process, check out our Voting Resources. They are also available in Spanish through our partnership with Contamos Idaho. By casting your vote, your voice can speak on behalf of your community’s values and priorities that have been reshaped over the last decade. 

After the election on November 8th, we’ll have a better idea of how redistricting has changed Idaho’s legislative representation. You can help us steer it in the right direction by voting for conservation champions in your area to represent Idaho’s air, water, and lands. Learn more about our endorsements here.
Something to note – with redistricting, many polling locations have changed! Look up your election information here.