The word “redistricting” comes across as technical, dry, and unimportant when it appears in the news next to more dramatic headlines. But the redistricting process – a once-per-decade event of redrawing state political lines – is a critical concern to all Idahoans. Redistricting impacts how communities receive funding and resources, how Idahoans are represented in legislative and congressional districts, and how neighborhoods and communities are joined together or split apart.
What is redistricting?
Redistricting is the most important decider of how we are represented by the government, and whose voices are heard in legislation. How we are divided into districts directly affects who is elected and whether or not your interests are being considered. The redistricting process impacts local, state, and even federal elections.
Over 10 years, as populations change, the original maps become inaccurate regarding population numbers. As people move or pass away, the populations in each district, which are supposed to be as equal as possible, become skewed. Redistricting occurs every decade, using new census data and public testimony to evaluate current populations in order to reset the maps to equally-sized districts.
How does redistricting work?
The redistricting commission, which in Idaho is made up of three Republicans and three Democrats, comes together to review the census data and make preliminary steps towards new maps of Idaho districts, both legislative (of which there are 35) and Idaho’s two congressional districts.
These maps have to follow certain rules.
One, the districts have to be contiguous, or shaped in a way that individuals in a district don’t need to cross a district boundary to get to the other side of their district. Two, the commission has to do their best to keep communities together, not creating district boundaries that split neighborhoods and towns. Three, the maps must not be in violation of the Voting Rights Act, which ensures underrepresented communities, such as Latinx or Black neighborhoods, have equal access and opportunity to vote in elections.
What’s happening now?
The redistricting commission has been at work on these new maps since September 1st. They have a deadline of November 30th to finalize the new district boundaries. So far, the commission has held twelve public hearings statewide to learn from Idahoans how their communities function and the interests they prioritize.
On October 12th at 7 p.m., the commission will be accepting testimony remotely. This is one of the last opportunities for Idahoans to voice their concerns before the commission begins the process of drafting new district lines. The 90-day deadline is approaching quickly, and the commission is pushing to shape these legislative and congressional maps in time based on public feedback and census data.
What can you do about redistricting?
The redistricting commission relies on public testimony just as much as the numbers and figures provided by census data. Community members need to show the commission how their community works, and what is important to them. These testimonies will prevent unfair districts being created, lines that could split up neighborhoods and, inevitably, their votes.
The redistricting commission has just about finished their statewide public hearing process, but there is still time to share your testimony in a couple ways.
- Participate in the upcoming remote testimony session on October 12th. The voices most heard are the ones showing up to speak out directly to commissioners. Register to share testimony at the October 12th session here. (You can give testimony via phone or online).
- If you are unable to attend the remote testimony hearing, you can also submit written testimony here.
Follow the process up to the November 30th deadline by signing up for our redistricting email list here. We keep the public up-to-date with commission meetings, the map development process, and more.