Monday, February 11, 2008

Looking Ahead To Reapportionment in 2010: Trends Favor Democrats & Disfavor Southeastern Idaho

Today, Idaho has 35 legislative districts. Each district contains 1 senator and 2 representatives. With a couple exceptions, legislative districts do not cross county lines, and the law requires the county boundaries be respected to the extent possible when new lines are drawn.

When Idaho’s legislative districts were redrawn following the 2000 Census (lines must be redrawn after a Census is completed), the state’s population was 1,293,593. Thus, if you divide 35 districts into that number, you get 36,970 people living in each district. There is some deviation from that number, but the courts require the each district be very close to the perfect number.

Reapportionment is a nasty, partisan business. In Idaho, a commission appointed by officials from both major parties is assigned the job of drawing new districts. Each political party wants lines drawn to give them the best chance of winning seats. There are also regional biases, with commissioners trying to draw lines that give their area of the state the maximum number of districts possible. Last time, in 2000, the southeastern part of the state lost legislative seats. There were numerous lawsuits and a lot of hurt feelings that arose from that process.

The Census Bureau last provided county population estimates on July 1, 2006. At that time, Idaho’s population was estimated to be 1,466,465, an increase of 13.33%. If you divide 35 legislative districts into the 2006 population estimate for Idaho, you get 41,899 people per district.

I have taken this new theoretical number of people per district, compared it to each of the county population estimates for 2006, and set forth my conclusions below. In discussing areas of the state, I refer to the “north” as being all counties from Idaho County on up, the “southwest as being counties south of Idaho County and west of Lemhi, Custer, Blaine, Camas, Gooding, and Twin Falls Counties, and the “southeast” being all other counties to the east. The counties that have gained the most through 2006 include Canyon, Ada, and Kootenai. The counties that have lost the most through 2006 include Bannock, Elmore, Latah, Nez Perce, and Minidoka. Too see a map of Idaho, its counties, its legislative districts, and a list of legislators, click here.

1. The biggest gainers are Ada and Canyon Counties. Canyon is the biggest gainer, with .58 new districts. Ada County gains .43 new districts. Together, the compact Ada-Canyon area already has enough people to gain a full new legislative district. Thus, it appears that the southwest, especially the Ada-Canyon area, already has one new district (3 more legislators) locked up—in total, the southwest counties would have 16 districts (48 legislators).
2. Kootenai County comes in third, with.20 new legislative districts. Kootenai is the only county in the north that gains. The other northern counties (Boundary, Bonner, Shoshone, Benewah, Latah, Clearwater, Nez Perce, Lewis, and Idaho) actually would lose almost half a district (.41). The north should remain about the same with 8 districts (24 legislators), although they are collectively .21 down.
3. The southeastern part of the state is down the most. Collectively, the southeast counties are down .60, more than half a district. Only four southeastern counties are up: Bonneville is up .03, Jefferson and Teton are up .02, and Power is up .01. The biggest losers in the southeast are Bannock (.17), Minidoka (.09), Bingham (.08), and Cassia (.07). Thus, the southeast is down the most, making it the most likely area of the state to lose a district. If so, it would have 11 districts (33 legislators).

Thus, as it stands, it appears that there will be a new legislative district in the Treasure Valley, a loss of a district somewhere in southeastern Idaho, and a wash in the north. Ada County currently has 8 districts (24 legislators), and half of Ada County’s legislators are Democrats. As the Treasure Valley grows, the trend seems to be in favor of Democrats. The 2010 Census could bode well for the Democrats.

1 comment:

elmoredemo said...

Because I had some free time, I created a test redistricting map based on the U.S. Census 2007 population estimates, taking those estimates as the figures for reapportionment (no projections, but rather as though those estimates were the real figures. The map fell into place rather easily, considering. Here's what I came up with:

Dist. 1: Boundary and 78% of Bonner Counties
Dist. 2: 22% of Bonner, Shoshone, Benewah, 4% of Kootenai, and 68% of Clearwater Counties
Dists. 3, 4, and 5: each 32% of Kootenai County
Dist. 6: Latah, 32% of Clearwater, and 10% of Nez Perce Counties
Dist. 7: 90% of Nez Perce, Lewis, and 28% of Idaho County
Dist. 8: 72% of Idaho, Adams, Valley, Washington, Boise, and 8% of Gem Counties
Dist. 9: 92% of Gem, Payette, and 2% of Canyon Counties
Dists. 10, 11, 12, and 13: each 24% of Canyon County
Dist. 14: 2% of Canyon, Owyhee, and 7% of Ada County
Dists. 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22: each 11 1/2% of Ada County
Dist. 23: 1% of Ada County, Elmore, Camas, and 70% of Gooding Counties
Dist. 24: 30% of Gooding and 53% of Twin Falls Counties
Dist. 25: 47% of Twin Falls and 40% of Jerome Counties
Dist. 26: 60% of Jerome, Blaine, Lincoln, 28% of Minidoka, and Power Counties
Dist. 27: 72% of Minidoka and Cassia Counties
Dist. 28: Oneida and 47% of Bannock Counties
Dist. 29: 53% of Bannock County
Dist. 30: Bingham County
Dists. 31 and 32: each 44 1/2% of Bonneville County
Dist. 33: 11% of Bonneville, Teton, Caribou, Bear Lake, and Franklin Counties
Dist. 34: Madison, 34% of Jefferson County
Dist. 35: 66% of Jefferson, Fremont, Clark, Butte, Custer and Lemhi Counties

Note these are only my projections; the actual lines will be drawn by the reapportionment committee in 2011 or so. I project that District 8 will be even more of a horror to campaign in than it is now, and District 35 gets even larger too. But I managed to do away with current District 23, and put Owyhee with slices of Canyon and Ada, where it belongs, and to reunite Minidoka with Cassia. It might work, you never know.

It's true that Ada will have 8 full districts and at least half of another one, Canyon will have over 4, and Kootenai over 3. That will not necessarily translate into greater Democratic strength, however; the fastest growing areas in Ada are Meridian, Eagle, Star, and Kuna, Republican strongholds all; Canyon County hasn't elected a Democrat to any office since Terry Reilly was killed a quarter century ago; whatever district gets Blaine County will likely be a tougher district for Democrats that the current District 25; and Pocatello's Democratic strength will likely be diluted.