Idaho’s congressional and legislative redistricting processes are conducted by a six-person commission. The majority and minority leaders of the state house and senate each choose a member, and the chairs of the two largest political parties jointly select one member.
Community of Interest Story
Native American communities across the state expressed significant frustration with the failure of the commission to respect Native communities. Despite a strong effort from organizers (such as Indigenous Idaho Alliance and Western Native Voice) in mobilizing members of the community to get involved in the redistricting process and legal action, ultimately the redistricting commission expressed that the constitutional requirement to keep counties whole trumped respect for sovereign Tribal Nations to keep reservations whole. The Coeur d’Alene and the Shoshone-Bannock tribal communities have fought since 2001 to keep their communities within one legislative district. In the recently passed map, they are split into two and three districts, respectively.
Overall State Grade: D
Lack of receptiveness to public feedback: As expressed in the COI story above, Native American communities across the state expressed significant disappointment and frustration in the lack of responsiveness to their desire to keep their communities whole.
Mixed access to participation: While some organizers appreciated the state’s redistricting website, others noted that it was not easy to use. Additionally, communities with limited internet access, such as many tribal communities, could not take advantage of this resource. For those who could, the online options to watch hearings were helpful, but the hearing schedule was not posted in a timely manner to afford people time to plan to attend. No meetings were held on reservations. Additionally, there were no resources for those with limited English proficiency to participate.
- The work continues to keep tribal lands whole: Native communities fought arduously to keep their communities together, but found the commission used the county cohesiveness redistricting criterion to justify splits. Idahoan legislators must prioritize tribal boundaries within the state’s redistricting criteria. Fort Hall Business Council lead attorney Bill Bacon expressed frustration with the current procedure: “The only way that the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are going to feel that we’re properly represented is by making sure that we’re collectively in the same area, with proper representation.”
- Redistricting commissioners should be selected to represent the diversity of Idaho: Notably, there were no people of color on the redistricting committee. It is crucial for committee members to represent a myriad of communities across the state in order to uplift the concerns and needs of all Idahoans.
- Materials should be provided in other languages: This cycle, all redistricting resources and public hearings were provided and conducted in English. However, over one in ten Idahoans speak a language other than English at home,24 and 8% of the population over the age of five speaks Spanish.25 Resources in multiple languages must be provided to make participation as accessible as possible.