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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Redistricting here we come!

While most "normal" people probably don't have much clue or desire to care the reality is that all across the country the single most important event of the decade (from political and policy perspectives) is beginning: the redrawing of legislative and congressional district boundaries.

Why is it so important? Because the way lines are drawn has a significant and direct impact on who may be elected to state legislatures or Congress. In many states, the job is left up to the legislature. In Idaho, the job is left up to a citizen's commission comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats. Kudos to Idaho's political leaders from the 1990's that sought out the change and Idahoans embracing it in the form a constitutional amendment. Often times this exercise devolves into a political battle of the most ugly display. As has been reported, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) knows that his Republican dominated Ohio Legislature is going to cut out his district. A sa result he has been soliciting offers form OTHER STATES so he can continue to serve in Congress. Regardless of how you feel about Congressman Kucinich the fact is that redistricting will have a real impact on the makeup of Congress when his district is essentially eliminated (more accurately absorbed by other districts).

To get local, Idaho's redistricting process, which officially starts on June 6, should provide as much intrigue. Some have suggested it is impossible for Democrats in Boise to maintain the number of viable districts as we currently have. To backup their claims they point to the fact that all of the growth in Ada County has been in the more conservative west and all the Boise districts need to gain population. True, true. To fix this they simply move the more competitive legislative districts west and then they become solid GOP. Okay, that is one solution. However, I have personally seen maps drawn where Boise Dems can stay as competitive in as many districts as they currently are after redistricting. The question will become what is more important? The two competing interests appear to be maintaining communities of interest versus adding population for population's sake.

For example, in the legislative district I was honored to represent, District 18, the district was mostly out of the precincts are in the Southeast Neighborhood Association (SENA). Having a SENA district makes sense because by definition neighborhood associations are communities of interest. I've heard ruminations that District 18 may just shifted further west to add the population it needs (around 5000 people). That would work, but it would really undermine the community of interest argument because District 18, at heart, is a Southeast Boise district. I can tell you that the folks in the western precincts don't feel like they belong and frankly, they don't.

There is also this continuing assumption that the congressional district lines in Idaho will simply shift slight west somewher in Ada County. To put a fine point on it, the convectional wisdom has been the line which currently bisects Ada County more or less down Cole Road, will move to around Eagle Road to add the necessary population. I've always thought cutting Ada County and Boise in half was clearly a political stunt intended to decrease the power of Boise Dems. A recent discussion with a conserviate Boise blogger confirmed that was his opinion as well. The question I keep asking is, "why do you have to cut Ada County at all?" The answer, clearly, is you don't. I recently saw a map drawn by someone that I don't know on the Maptitude software being used by the redistricting commission. The proposed map cut the state of Idaho north to south rather than east to west. The map called it Desert District versus Mountain District. Regardless of the political outcome of the districts, the way the map looked made a lot more sense than the current map. Of course the GOP would never go for this plan because it would put too many south Idaho cities in the same district and that, at some point, could be trouble.

Anyway, I could go on for hours, but I've probably said enough. Needless to say, I'll be watching very closely. I will attend all the meetings that I can with laptop at bay and snarky comment in queue. Thanks for reading.

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