HJR 4–YES OR NO?
Guest Editorial by Karey Hanks
Our November ballots will include the following question:
Shall Section 2, Article III of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended to require that the Senate shall consist of thirty-five 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 thirty-five districts?
When making your decision, here are some points to consider:
Passage of HJR 4 would LIMIT legislative districts (LDs) to thirty-five. With the Idaho population growing, especially in urban areas, will this allow for adequate representation of rural areas with a lesser population?
If the redistricting committee, which is tasked with redrawing legislative district boundaries after the United States’ decennial census, decides on 30-32 LDs, this would mean legislators would possibly end up covering about 60K in population, and larger land areas. It would also reduce the size of our state government and could save taxpayer money spent on legislative salaries and benefits.
But is it better to “lock in” 35 LDs now? Many say, “YES!”
Some argue it will allow time to educate our citizens on the benefits of one state senator for each county, which could be more equal representation for our smaller counties? This solution would mirror our current federal Senate structure and may allow for better balance between urban and rural sectors. However, establishing one state senator per county would require an additional Constitutional amendment as well.
Should we put more effort into changing the number of state senators, or go ahead and amend our Idaho Constitution now?
Another question is whether or not fixing the number districts at 35 will reduce the possibility of litigation? Some people/entities may not be willing to accept a lesser number of LDs and decide to file lawsuits.
Does setting a firm number of LDs truly reduce our flexibility and options? Would a lower number of districts actually dilute the ability of large counties to dominate the state?
For the most part, I believe our Idaho and U.S. Constitutions should be left alone. While I would consider an amendment proposal including the words “at least thirty-five” districts; unfortunately, HJR 4 as presented does not.
As you can see, there are many questions to be considered as we vote HJR 4 this General Election on November 3, 2020. At this point, I am leaning toward a “NO” vote.
The House (65-3) and Senate (31-4) overwhelmingly passed House Joint Resolution 4 in February of 2020. Additional ballot information on HJR 4 may be found at: sos.idaho.gov/elections-division/ballot-initiatives.
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