|House Committee votes to enable gerrymandering via a new State Constitutional Amendment enabling only Republicans to draw new legislative and congressional district maps in 2020
HJR002 (House Joint Resolution) passed the House State Affairs Committee on 2/8/19. It is an awful piece of legislation that reminds people why they hate one-party control of government. This legislation adds a seventh member to the current bipartisan redistricting committee comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats. The commission redraws legislative and congressional boundaries every 10 years following the national census, which will next take place in 2020. (Click here to read the bill and other details.)
The seventh member of the commission would be selected by a majority vote of the governor, lieutenant governor, state controller, state treasurer, and superintendent of public instruction - which are all members of the Republican party. That means party leaders can select the tie-breaking vote on the redistricting commission. This then enables only the four Republicans on the commission to draw every one of the 35 legislative district boundaries and the two U.S. Congressional District boundaries since it only takes a majority vote of the commission to approve the new boundaries.
This is a power grab - pure and simple. And to ensure they didn't have to listen to dissenting voices, the State Affairs committee rammed it through by giving the public only a one-day notice of the hearing at which they could make comments. One day's notice - for new Constitutional amendment!
This is both disgraceful and the height of hypocrisy. There isn't a single person in the Capitol Building, in District 15 or the entire State of Idaho who believes for one minute that this bill would be introduced if Democrats controlled a majority of five state offices being given the power to select the tie-breaking vote on the redistricting committee.
It takes a 2/3 vote of the House and a 2/3 vote of the Senate to pass a proposed Constitutional amendment. The Republican party controls 80% of the House and 80% of the Senate, so this legislation can pass on a pure party-line vote. It would then appear on the November ballot where a simple majority of voters will decide if it is incorporated into the state Constitution.
This is what happens when one political party (it doesn't matter which one) has complete control of government for decades on end. They can manipulate the rules of government to preserve their power.
Drawing legislative maps is perhaps the most difficult political task. There will always be people who don't like the outcome and adding this tie-breaking vote won't prevent future lawsuits from challenging it. In fact, the current redistricting commission was created by the voters in reaction to the debacle in the early 1980's when the legislature controlled the process. The Idaho Supreme Court declared the boundaries unconstitutional and had to ultimately step in and draw the boundaries themselves to make them fair.
Requiring a majority vote of an equally bipartisan commission ensures that all perspectives must be considered. Adding this seventh partisan vote will result in Idaho reverting back to gerrymandering - perhaps the ultimate affront to a vibrant, thriving and fair democracy.