Redistricting commission co-chairman Bart Davis asks a question while training with Maptitude software Sept. 2. (Photo by Jim Max/For the Idaho Capital Sun.)
Idaho’s bipartisan redistricting commission reconvened Wednesday to begin drawing maps and prepare for five weeks of regional public hearings that begin next week.
The six commissioners — three appointed by Republicans and three appointed by Democrats — have until Nov. 30 to redraw the state’s 35 legislative districts and two congressional districts based on new 2020 census data.
The commission’s first meeting was Sept. 1, and commissioners are meeting three times a week at this point on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
So far, the meetings have been devoted to gearing up for what state officials have told commissioners will be a complicated and pressure-filled process. Commissioners must split 44 counties into 35 nearly evenly populated legislative districts, while splitting up as few counties as possible, attempting to keep cities and communities of interest together and avoiding drawing oddly shaped districts.
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Required by the U.S. Constitution and Idaho Constitution, one of the major goals of redistricting is to ensure representation is proportional.
One of the main goals this week is for the commissioners to create their first proposed map to spark discussion at upcoming public hearings.
“Now it’s down to the hard stuff,” commission co-chairman Bart Davis told fellow commissioners during the meeting.
Because they are still at the beginning of the 90-day process, commissioners stressed this first map likely won’t be one of the final maps they ultimately vote on. Instead, they want to offer a preliminary map that can serve as a conversation starter at public hearings.
“We’ve got a couple days here, and I am not sure in a couple days we could come up with something we have a lot of confidence in,” commission co-chairman Dan Schmidt said during the meeting.
Last week, Davis said his goal is to have one of the two maps completed, if not voted on, by Oct. 13.
Commissioners are scheduled to meet next at 9 a.m. Thursday in Room WW 17 on the garden level of the Idaho Statehouse. The meetings are streamed live, for free, via Idaho Public Television’s Idaho in Session service.
The public may also use a free version of the Maptitude software commissioners are using to practice drawing their own legislative or congressional district maps. Anyone may also submit a finished map to the commission for consideration. Any submitted maps become a public record.
Public hearings start Sept. 15 in Nampa and Caldwell. The commission’s staff was still finalizing venues and schedules for public hearing, but additional details are expected to be released soon.
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