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ID Grows More Diverse, But Not Its Redistricting Commission

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021   

BOISE, Idaho - The redistricting process begins today in Idaho, and some are raising concerns that the commission overseeing it doesn't reflect the state's growing diversity.

Rudy Soto, who chairs the Native American Democratic Caucus of Idaho and is a member of the League of Minority Voters' National Board of Trustees, said state leaders, especially Democrats, missed an opportunity to choose a person of color for Idaho's six-member Citizen Commission for Reapportionment, in charge of drawing the state's voting districts.

"It's just very symbolic for them to not have a single seat at the table," he said. "I think it really sends the wrong message to our kids and communities throughout the state who are an integral part of just our society."

Soto noted that the omission is especially glaring in light of the state's growing Hispanic population. Recent census numbers showed that nearly one in five Idahoans is not white and about one in eight is Latino. Idaho's Hispanic and Latino populations have grown by 36% in the past decade. Idaho also was the second-fastest-growing state in the nation.

Democratic leaders in charge of appointments did not respond to a request for comment.

Idaho is home to five tribes, and Soto said Native Americans also are speaking out about the lack of representation on the redistricting commission.

"Their concerns regarding the lack of representation make it such that there's a real risk of the votes of minorities being divvied up that would result in diluting and lessening the power of those votes," he said.

Soto said communities of color should be included as public meetings get under way. Native Americans are asking that some meetings be held on reservations, and Soto said Latino groups are organizing around this issue. In his view, it's never too late to do the right thing.

"They need to figure out how to reassure our communities that we are respected," he said, "that there's decency and dignity for the contributions that we make to the state."


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