BOISE — Idaho’s bipartisan redistricting commission wrapped up its first three days of meetings Friday with commissioners spending additional time training with the software they will use to redraw the state’s political boundaries.
The commission didn’t take any votes or any action Friday.
Instead, commissioners convened as a group in the morning and used the rest of their time to train individually with state staffers using the Maptitude software. Commissioners have made a version of the Maptitude software available on the redistricting website, and anyone may use it to draw and submit a proposed map for consideration.
“My thought is, at least for some of us, we need to practice some on our own,” commissioner Eric Redman said during the meeting. “There is still a lot to learn, at least for me.”
The other commissioners agreed.
“The map (software) really does give us tools to study and try to see if we’ve met the bar that we feel we’ve set for ourselves,” co-chairman Dan Schmidt told commissioners. “Getting comfortable with this tool is really important.”
The commission has not completed any proposed maps or taken public testimony yet, but that will soon change. Commissioners are expected to begin drawing maps next week, which they will take on a five- or six-week road show of public hearings across the state.
“Truthfully, we’re still learning and I don’t know that anybody has got a map that they’ve got to show us yet, so we need some product,” Schmidt said during the meeting.
Redistricting is the process of redrawing the state’s 35 legislative districts and two congressional districts based on new U.S. Census Bureau data. The process takes place every 10 years and is required by the Idaho Constitution and the U.S. Constitution to ensure representation is proportional.
Idaho was the second-fastest growing state over the previous decade, according to the 2020 census, but that growth was divided and uneven. That’s why the districts are being redrawn to adhere to the principle of “one person, one vote.”
The process may seem intimidating, but it will have far-reaching effects on Idaho elections and politics over the next decade. The new maps will determine what candidates Idaho voters may vote for and, therefore, who will represent them and their family in the Idaho Legislature and in Congress.
By law, commissioners have 90 days from Wednesday’s initial meeting to turn their redistricting plan and two new maps into the state. The maps and plan are due Nov. 30. Commissioner Bart Davis said Thursday the group hopes to have its first map finished, if not voted on, by Oct. 13.
Commissioners will reconvene at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Statehouse. The meeting will be streamed live using Idaho Public Television’s Idaho in Session service. Commissioners will also meet next Thursday and Friday, Sept. 10.
A series of public hearings kicks off Sept. 15 in and around the Treasure Valley, with additional hearings that are in the process of being scheduled in north, central and Eastern Idaho.
Idaho’s redistricting commission includes six members – three appointed by Republicans and three appointed by Democrats. It takes at least four commissioners to approve maps and redistricting plans.