Republican leaders are trying to head off any potential consolidation of legislative districts next year by changing the Idaho Constitution.
House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) introduced a constitutional amendment yesterday that would freeze the number of legislative districts at 35.
That’s how many there are now, but the Idaho Constitution allows it to be as few as 30.
Bedke said he’s worried that rural districts could grow even more geographically expansive if a future redistricting commission decides to consolidate them.
“In some parts of this state you have to go a long ways to gather up another 10,000 people, if you’ll forgive me for using a cowboy phrase there,” he said.
Some legislative districts are so vast, driving one end to the other would take several hours over hundreds of miles. District 7, for example, stretches nearly half the state north to south.
Bedke has previously floated the idea of adding up to three new districts, which would create nine new legislative seats, but that’s not included in this proposed amendment.
In a statement, Democrats say voters aren’t calling for this change and they’re worried it would tie the hands of future lawmakers.
“If we are going to change the constitution, we need to tread lightly. The bill before us will require us to open up our state constitution and this deserves a lot of dialogue,” Rep. Brooke Green (D-Boise) said in a statement.
The move comes about a year after Republicans introduced another constitutional amendment that would’ve added a seventh member to the bipartisan redistricting commission that’s evenly split between members appointed by Democrats and the GOP.
They shelved the idea after cries of gerrymandering erupted from Democrats in the House, since that seventh member would be appointed by a group of statewide elected officials, all of whom have been Republicans since 2007.
A constitutional amendment needs a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate to pass. It would then go before voters on the November ballot for final approval.
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