"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

L93’s big helicopter districts


Every decade, it’s the same: As population crowds into urban areas, legislative (and congressional) districts that cover rural areas have to stretch into larger and larger areas. It’ll happen again after 2020.

Even so, I’ve been looking at the Idaho Redistricting Commission’s L93 map (yes, that means there have been that many formally submitted) adopted on Friday, my eyes drawn to districts like 7, 8 and 32 – districts large enough that even on the small map on this page, you cam make them out clearly.

District 7 touches U.S. Highway 95 just southeast of Sandpoint, high up in the Panhandle, but not again until near Cottonwood, something like three hours south if you could drive it on 95. But you can’t drive it all on any single highway, or any highway. It might be possible to cover it all on forest roads, but even that’s debatable. In Oregon they used to call districts like this “helicopter districts,” since that’s what you’d need to traverse them all the way through without going far afield.

District 32 (a close analogue to the existing District 31) covers Teton County near Jackson, Wyoming, south to the Utah line, and then east past Malad. This too is a “helicopter district,” and the subject of many local complaints a decade ago. Its similar creation this time seems not to have generated as many; they may have given up.

But District 8, the one that runs from the Montana border near Salmon south and west pst Emmett nearly to the Oregon border, and which technically is not a helicopter district, is the one that really gets my attention. There is a certain logical common interest; vast amounts of this area are forest or wilderness lands, and much of it economically concerns either natural resources or tourism.

But the breadth of it … From Lolo Pass on Highway 93 north of Salmon down to Salmon is the better part of an hour. From there to Challis another hour, and close to another from there Stanley in western Custer County. Another hour, or more, from there through Lowman up the extremely twisty mountain roads on Highway 21 up to Idaho City. Crossing over to Highway 55 via Lowman or Idaho City is another half hour or more, and then north up to McCall, or west through Emmett to Letha another hour or so. Pretty drives, but long and sometimes stressful, especially in the winter. (Part of that Highway 21 run is commonly called Avalanche Alley, for good reason.)

Give a slice of sympathy to the legislators who eventually do represent districts like these.

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One Comment

  1. mark said:

    Here’s to the GOP, the party of disenfranchisement.

    January 30, 2012

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