Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thumbs down on GOPís new monster district

The state legislative redistricting plan put forth by GOP Redistricting Commissioner Lou Esposito flies in the face of the requirement that new districts preserve communities of interest and traditional neighborhoods.

It puts Blaine County into a monstrously large new district that would demand that prospective legislators put forth Herculean efforts to campaign and keep in touch with constituents—unless the Idaho Legislature wants taxpayers to have to bear the burden of providing candidates with private planes.

The new District 35 envisioned in the plan would include seven counties: Blaine, Clark, Custer, Lemhi, Camas, Butte and Lincoln. That's down from four counties—Blaine, Camas, Gooding and Lincoln—in the current District 25.

The new district would encompass 20,212 square miles—nearly 25 percent of the entire state of Idaho—and would be nearly four times larger than the current District 25 at 5,671 square miles. It would stretch all the way to the Montana border and be trisected by two major mountain ranges.

Candidates for posts as part-time "citizen legislators" would face one-way drives of eight hours and 15 minutes—not counting pit stops—just to reach all of the county seats in the district, let alone spend any time in them. And, that's in the summer when the roads in this new mountains-and-ice district are clear.

The time and distances are unacceptable hurdles to put between citizens and their legislators.

Further, the chasms of interest between the counties are even larger than the distances involved. The counties seem to have been stuffed cavalierly into a new district for no better reason than that the total number of residents meets the required number.

It's a good bet that few people in District 25 today could find Clark County or its county seat, Dubois, on a map. Why would they have any idea about the interests of the 982 souls that live there?

Blaine County's development and economic ties extend south, not north and east as Esposito's district would have it. The Census Bureau shows commuters coming to jobs in Blaine County from Lincoln, Gooding, Twin Falls, Camas and Jerome. Economic ties like these in the GOP's new district are not only sparse, but they are nearly nonexistent.

The new district makes no sense on the ground and would damage the community of interests shared by the counties in today's District 25. They have highways, air transportation and commercial interests in common.

Esposito's plan should have been dead on arrival. The Redistricting Commission should do better. It needs to help representative democracy in Idaho, not hurt it.

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