It’s time once again for our Statist of the Week, and this one only has a chance to come around once every 10 years. It’s the entire Idaho Redistricting Commission. That’s the six-member panel that’s charged with redrawing the state’s legislative and congressional boundaries after every U.S. Census.
The commission is supposed to come up with the best map possible, playing within a specific set of rules — avoiding splitting up counties, keeping communities of interest together, and so on. Most importantly, it is supposed to not focus on incumbents in making decisions. During this process, the public has a chance to weigh in and present their own maps for dividing Idaho’s Legislature into 35 legislative districts.
In the past redistricting efforts, long before the commission was created in the 1990s, dividing the state into new districts has been the stuff of partisan intrigue, moving a legislative boundary here or there to impact the number of Republicans or Democrats. But not any more.
As I’ve noted before, Idaho’s House of Representatives is the most conservative it has ever been. Yet this year, the mapping process was all about building a map to hurt as many conservative legislators as possible. You do this by putting conservatives into districts with other conservatives, or by putting conservatives in races with more liberal incumbents and drawing the districts to benefit the liberals. Or you insert conservative legislators into brand new legislative districts so that they no longer benefit from the relationships and voting records their constituents have come to know.
The best example is Heather Scott, who is one of the leading conservative members in the House of Representatives. Scott has represented Bonner and Boundary counties, Idaho’s two uppermost counties. But the new proposed map puts the border of the legislative district she once represented a tiny bit north of her house. Rather than representing Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry, and Moyie Springs, she would now need to drive about four hours south to Weippe to meet constituents.
And this kind of anti-conservative gerrymandering is occurring all over the state with the new proposed map. It’s bad by design for conservatives in the Legislature, which in turn impacts the ability of Idahoans to access their legislators.
This is the kind of political monkey business that only a statist would do, and that’s why the Idaho Redistricting Commission is our Statist of the Week.
Who should be next week’s winner? Write to me, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll talk to you again next time.