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Some people are never satisfied. That’s actually one of the realities of legislative reapportionment: No matter how you reshape and rearrange, you can’t please everyone. That doesn’t give the displeased grounds for a lawsuit.

Idaho legislative districtsOur view on the current districting map for Idaho has been that it’s not ideal but not bad either – allowing for some problematic areas. One of those is a district connecting a small group of people near Idaho Falls with a population base located around 80 miles away near the Utah border, with no useful direct road contact between (unless you want to rev up your four wheel drive, you have to veer outside the state or district to get from one to the other). It’s an unfortunate district, no doubt. There’s another running from Homedale to Twin Falls almost as bad. Such things happen to someone in every reapportionment.

But a number of eastern Idahoans, some of them legislators or former legislators, are aggrieved, and they have taken the reapportionment back to the Idaho Supreme Court. It has been there before, during the original reapportionment process in 2002. Further challenges led to more intense inquiry but, in the Idaho Supreme Court decision released Wednesday, the result was much the same.

The easterners have argued, most essentially, that northern Idaho has gotten too much representation – too many districts for its population – while eastern Idaho has gotten too few. But what do the regions consist of? From the court decision:

Petitioners’ definition of “north” Idaho includes districts that stretch from the State’s northern border (District 1) to as far south as Payette and Fruitland (District 9), Caldwell (District 10), and Emmett and Middleton (District 11). We know of no official delineation of Idaho’s regions and we are certainly not the state’s
geography experts, but we are familiar enough with the map of our state to find it
something of a stretch to categorize Payette, Fruitland, Caldwell, Emmett, and Middleton as part of “north” Idaho. Even operating under the geographic definition Petitioners have given us, we are unable to conclude they have demonstrated that the “regional deviation” creates constitutional problems for Plan L97.


In this case, the individuals in the “northern” districts constitute 30.4 percent of
Idaho’s total population, and they are represented by eleven districts. Based on their population, they are entitled to 10.64 districts. On the other side of this coin, individuals outside the “northern” region comprise 69.6 percent of the population, and they are represented by twenty-four districts. Based on their population, non-“northern” residents are entitled to 24.36 districts. Indeed, under Plan L97, the number of districts in any region corresponds quite closely to the number of people therein. Put differently, if the total amount of underpopulation in the “northern” region is spread evenly among each “northern” district, each of the “northern” districts deviates –3.27 percent from the ideal. If the total amount of overpopulation of the non-“northern” region is spread evenly among each of the non-“northern” districts, each deviates 1.5 percent from the ideal. If the state is divided into the two regions (“north” and not-“north”), the maximum population deviation between any “northern” district and any non-“northern” district is 4.77 percent.

They can try again in another five years. But bear in mind that the fastest-growing parts of Idaho are in the southwest and the north, not in the east.

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