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ID Legislators Eye Partisan Change to How Districts are Drawn

Since 1994, Idaho's redistricting commission has been made up of three Republicans and three Democrats. (Kevin Rank/Flickr)
Since 1994, Idaho's redistricting commission has been made up of three Republicans and three Democrats. (Kevin Rank/Flickr)
January 9, 2020

BOISE, Idaho -- Idaho lawmakers are considering a change to how legislative districts are drawn.

It could have big consequences when the voting map is updated after this year's census.

In the 2019 session, Republican Party legislators proposed a constitutional amendment to add a member to the state's redistricting commission.

Since 1994, the commission has been made up of three Republicans and three Democrats.

Under the proposal, a seventh member would be chosen by three statewide officials.

Gary Moncrief, a retired political science professor from Boise State University, says that would cement GOP power over district maps.

He says over the past decade, both parties in states across the country have drawn maps to their advantage.

"We've seen such great advances in gerrymandering -- from both parties, depending on the state that we're talking about -- that I think anything other than a bipartisan or nonpartisan, if that's possible, commission just opens the door to more gerrymandering," he states.

Supporters of the proposal say the redistricting commission should add another member to end partisan bickering. Since the change would amend the constitution, voters would have to approve this move after it passed the Legislative Assembly.

According to Moncrief's count, 14 states have independent redistricting commissions, splitting membership between parties or, in some cases, requiring unaffiliated voters to take part. He says states stick with this setup once it's in place.

"Of the states that now have these independent, nonpartisan or bipartisan commissions, none of them has ever reverted to a partisan arrangement," he points out. "In other words, I see this as a big step back."

Moncrief notes that the Democrat Party heavy state of New Jersey recently tried to move to a majority-controlled commission, but residents caused such an uproar that lawmakers dropped the proposal.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID