IDAHO FALLS — Election day is a month away and as voters prepare to cast their ballots, there are a few items Idahoans need to be aware of.
In addition to U.S. Congress, state legislature and county positions, a proposed amendment for Idaho’s constitution, called HJR 4, is on the ballot. It reads,
“Shall Section 2, Article III, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended to require that the Senate shall consist of 35 members; and shall Section 4, Article III, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended to require that the Legislature shall be apportioned to 35 legislative districts?”
Brent Hill, President Pro Tempore of the Idaho State Senate, tells EastIdahoNews.com the state constitution currently permits between 30 and 35 districts, depending on how they are drawn after a U.S. census. If voters approve this amendment, it would constitutionally guarantee the number remains at 35 and could not be changed during redistricting.
“One reason for this is to provide stability for what we’re already doing,” Hill says.
Hill, who is in favor of the amendment, says the redistricting process is usually a contentious debate that ends up in the court system and setting the number at 35 would eliminate any future conflict on the matter.
Another reason, as outlined in the proposal on the Secretary of State’s website, is that it makes it more likely that Idaho residents have representation relevant to their local interests.
“If the number of districts is reduced, rural residents could be added to mostly urban districts, and urban residents could be added to mostly rural districts. This could result in legislators being less responsive to some constituents’ interests than others,” the proposal says.
“We’re already one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. The population of each district is growing” and a reduction in the number of legislators would pose some challenges, says Hill.
The proposal also mentions several reasons for voting against the measure.
One has to do with the complicated nature of the redistricting process and the need for flexibility.
“The commission currently has the flexibility to determine the number of districts within a certain range because it is possible that a plan with 30 larger districts could better satisfy legal requirements than a plan with 35 smaller districts,” the proposal says.
It also suggests the amendment would result in a significant change right before redistricting occurs in 2021 without enough time to consider the consequences.
“Changes to the redistricting process should be proposed well in advance of a redistricting year,” the proposal says.
The proposal originated in the House and was required to pass both the House and the Senate with a two-thirds majority before it could appear on the ballot.
Idaho residents can weigh-in with a simple majority vote of ‘yes’ or ‘no.’