Scott Bedke

There’s a constitutional amendment on your ballot this fall, and to protect your representation in the Idaho Statehouse, you should vote “yes.” This amendment, HJR 4, is a promise to you and every Idaho voter. The proposed amendment will permanently set the number of legislative districts in Idaho at 35. It would be a guarantee that people in all corners of the state will still be able to connect with their legislators and continue to have their voices heard when laws are written.

Here’s how it works. Each Idahoan lives in one legislative district. In the Idaho Statehouse, there are two representatives and one senator for each district. You elect those legislators, and they work for you. They speak for your interests and the interests of the people in your district. To make it as fair as possible, district maps are re-drawn every 10 years to try to have roughly the same population in each district. That means densely populated city districts can span a few miles, while spread-out rural districts can stretch halfway across the state. Next year, a citizens group will meet to redraw these district maps based on population changes reflected in the 2020 census. If HJR 4 fails, they could also drop the number of legislative districts to as few as 30.

Now is the time to safeguard against this. HJR 4 would eliminate the possible loss of districts. Our state is growing. People are being drawn here from across the country by our quality of life, thriving economy and minimal regulations. The last thing we need is fewer state legislators representing more Idahoans at a time when the Legislature is debating complex issues related to growth.

HJR 4 would continue to allow you easier access to your local legislators. People connecting with their elected representatives and senators is an Idaho tradition, whether that’s through calls, emails, town halls, or just chatting in the store. But if the number of districts drops, legislators would need to represent thousands more people, and those communication channels would get a lot more crowded.

HJR 4 would also protect rural representation. If the number of districts drops, that means those districts would have to get bigger geographically. Rural districts, some of which are already stretched hundreds of miles, would have to stretch into cities to get the required population. Urban districts would have to extend into rural areas. Representatives would then have the nearly impossible task of speaking for two diverse groups of constituents, bound together in one district. As a fourth-generation Idahoan, I want to support the voices and values of rural Idaho that brought us to the overall prosperity we enjoy today.

Finally, HJR 4 has bipartisan support. In your State Legislature this year, the measure sailed through the House by an overwhelming 65-3 vote. In the Senate, it received another tidal wave of support, with a 31-4 vote. At a time when people are divided on so many issues, Idaho Democrats and Republicans are in agreement that HJR 4 just makes sense.

HJR 4 ensures that no matter which part of the state you live in, citizens will have more representation and the smallest legislative district possible, so your legislator can hear your issues, represent them in the Statehouse and find solutions.

Vote YES on HJR 4.

This column was written by Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke.