Constitutional Amendment Could Give GOP The Upper Hand In Idaho Redistricting

Feb 7, 2019

An Idaho Republican is introducing a constitutional amendment that would make legislative redistricting more partisan.

Right now, three Democrats and three Republicans make up the commission that draws legislative maps and congressional districts every 10 years.

The proposal would add another member appointed by statewide elected officials – offices that have long been held by the GOP. Any plan would only need a simple majority to approve a map instead of two-thirds of the commission agreeing on a deal.

Boise State Political Science Professor Jaclyn Kettler says this is significant.

“The proposal would be a significant change in that no longer do you have to have compromise in order for it to pass. You don’t have to have a bipartisan agreement,” Kettler says.

Rep. Steve Harris (R-Meridian) introduced the amendment Wednesday. He says recent battles over redistricting in 2002 and 2012 were costly and required the supermajority to pass any deal gridlocked the commission.

But Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise) says it was worse when the legislature was in charge of redrawing maps.

“There was never more friction among legislators,” said Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise).

“By doing this, I think we’re injecting Washington, D.C.-style, dysfunctional politics into a process that has been relatively free from politics because of the balance,” Gannon said.

Harris countered that he doesn’t think there’s a neutral way to redraw these maps. Several states across the country use retired judges or even regular citizens to approve such plans, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The amendment must pass by two-thirds of both the House and Senate and then be approved by voters in the next general election.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio