Idaho voters to decide whether to require state legislature to consist of 35 districts

The Idaho State Legislature passed House Joint Resolution 4 by a vote of 65-3 in the House and 31-4 in the Senate. The amendment would remove language in the state constitution that allows the legislature to have between 30 and 35 districts and, instead, require the state to have 35 state legislative districts.

Currently, the Idaho State Senate contains 35 Senators, who are elected from 35 districts. The Idaho House of Representatives consists of 70 Representatives, who are elected from the same 35 districts, with two being elected from each constituency.

House Speaker Scott Bedke (R), who sponsored the resolution, said, “[Since the 1980s], we have had 35 legislative districts, and it seems to suit us well. Yet your Constitution says you can have as few as 30. So why would we want to change this? I think the reasoning is as Idaho grows, then our citizens are better served with more legislative districts than fewer. It’s certainly something that we’re all used to for the last 30-plus years. But our Constitution allows for fewer legislative districts, and I think we’d be well-served going forward pegging that at 35.”

The Idaho Legislature has the power to place constitutional amendments on the ballot when both houses of the legislature approve the amendment by a two-thirds majority vote. Once on the ballot, the amendment must be approved by a simple majority of the electors. The 2020 state legislative session is expected to run from January 6 to March 27, 2020.

Idaho residents may qualify measures for the ballot through initiative petition. For 2020, initiative supporters must gather 55,057 valid signatures and must submit signatures no later than May 1, 2020, in order to qualify initiatives for the ballot. Three citizen initiatives have been filed in Idaho targeting the 2020 ballot: one measure would incrementally raise the state minimum wage to $12 by 2024, one measure would create a medical marijuana program, and the third would increase the income tax rate for individuals with incomes above $250,000 and create the Quality Education Fund.

From 1996 to 2018, 36 measures have been on the ballot in Idaho, of which, 72% (26 of 36) were approved and 28% (10 of 36) were defeated.

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