City Government

Council District Law Eliminates 84% Of Voters

The new State law creating district elections for city councils in municipalities of more than 100,000 population eliminates 84% of potential voters in Boise.

On the face of it, the new law was aimed at eliminating the strangle hold on the powerful North Enders. The law reasonably says candidates must live within geographical districts. But it also says ONLY citizens living within those districts can vote for a candidate.

That means only 16% of registered voters within the city qualify to vote for ANY candidate. If three candidates run for a single seat, one could get elected with as little as 6% of those who vote within a district.

The GUARDIAN feels it is imperative the law be changed at the next legislative session to allow a citywide vote while retaining the district residency requirement–just like we have with county commission seats.

Vista neighborhood resident Dave Kangas has an interesting take on the map HERE.

Those in support of the legislative mandate were motivated to make it easier for a candidate to get elected. It is cheaper and easier to get a special interest district to elect you than to secure the votes of at least half the city.

Comments & Discussion

35 comments for “Council District Law Eliminates 84% Of Voters”

  1. Kent F Goldthorpe
    Jun 29, 2021, 9:22 pm

    I will respectfully disagree. The system is working well at ACHD. I urge all to watch the redistricting process this year at the highway district. It will be ultimately transparent and fair. This districting system that you oppose gives the underrepresented a voice, finally.

  2. The mayor gets elected by popular vote of the whole city, the council members (SHOULD) represent the interests of the districts they live in, therefore they are voted in by only the residents of said district. Not that complicated. I don’t see how that alienates 84% of voters. Although, I get the maths that created that number. Seems it really gives a voice to the previously underrepresented. Similar to other political districting concepts, although I get that most of the time, redistricting gets done and lines get drawn to appease certain elements that want to retain majority.

    I’m not a fan of what Rep. Simpson is attempting to do with his salmon/dam issue, however he was elected to represent district 2 in the US House, and I am only able to vote for a District 1 Rep…

    In addition, I would go one step further…I think there should be an addendum to the new law. That is, if you don’t live in the district, you are unable to donate to the candidate in that district. And corporate donations should be banned as well, as they are not people, regardless of the Citizens United Decision.

    I hope everyone is staying cool out there…

    –Nate

  3. The argument you are making was made loud and clear during committee and floor debate on the bill that created this law. The real purpose of this law is to make it easier for Republican candidates to win at least some of the Boise City Council seats by creating districts where only people who live further away from downtown can vote for some of the seats. And a legislature controlled 82% by the majority party was happy to oblige.

    This new law is all – and only – about partisan politics.

  4. David Gustafson
    Jun 29, 2021, 11:58 pm

    Disagree. This new district approach, like most representative elections, ensures my vote has more weight when electing my representative. Let West Boise pick their rep, and the North End pick theirs. Allowing the North End voters pick the rep from South Boise solves nothing. I honestly don’t care where my rep lives. I care that my community/neighborhood has their own rep.

  5. Kent: They always had a voice and a choice. They chose not to exercise it. They were underrepresented by apathy. They whined and begged for an extraordinary solution. Is the County Commissioner race not viable, transparent and fair?
    Nate: No comparison. One Representative can be canceled by another. They can be canceled by our Senators. I also have a vote for an Executive branch with veto power. A candidate must show a political philosophy by party affiliation. None of these checks and balances are afforded me in Municipal government.
    Steve: The ability to be represented was always there, no matter your location. This was driven by the apathy in some areas and the divisive parochialism of others. To separate into districts only becomes more divisive. To blame partisanship in non partisan races is also divisive.
    Dave: My ability to vote had ramifications on 7 City government officials’ decisions. Now I can only affect 2. Seems like suppressive enfranchisement disguised as improved representation.

  6. Bonnie Krupp
    Jun 30, 2021, 1:05 pm

    It depends when city council members are elected. If they are on the general election November ballot then there will likely be a large turnout. Off years are not favorable to anyone but incumbents.

  7. Ripe for Gerrymandering- especially in a city of such polarized politics.
    I would start at one end the city and move toward the other- as soon as the requisite number of people was counted, draw a vertical or horizontal line (matching precinct boundaries).
    Dist 5 is Downtown- that is totally different base than East Boise; but a slice of North/River/South would be much more equitable.

    Prediction: This will be a case of the solution is worse than the problem.

    How is Meridian doing with the topic?

  8. I finally agree with C Goldthorpe.
    The ACHD system is working well enough- at least to boot C Arnold from her roost.

  9. You're Crazy, Dave
    Jun 30, 2021, 1:40 pm

    Completely disagree. You want to let the North Enders band together and select whatever loony toons candidates they want to rustle up that happen to live in or move to a particular district with their overvotes? Come on, Dave.

  10. Several tout ACHD. Perhaps this is fine for a single mission agency. Are you confident there won’t be a breakdown with a diverse municipal agenda? Parks to Police, Fire to Forestry, Building to Zoning to Housing to Sewer and so on. I can see some procedure problems arising. District by district infighting is sure to occur. Without corrupt collusion no one will have the power to prevail with a merit argument alone. We are creating divisive parochialism. The old system could have been cured by some active participation from all areas of the city, not dividing the city into sects.

  11. Wow, with it being hot everywhere else, Hell must have frozen over, because Caeth and I agree on something!

    Any guesses until we see ever more problems with city government than in the past? More acrimony, more partisan? I sure hope I’m wrong.

  12. I would not become too excited about or emotionally invested in the issue of Boise district elections at this time. In 2022, the GOP Idaho legislature will dramatically revise the municipal district statute. It attempted to do so this year but infighting killed the bill. It is also likely that municipal district elections will be moved to even numbered years with the next revision. The legislature, however, will do nothing to further restrict campaign donations.

  13. Chickenhawk
    Jun 30, 2021, 5:31 pm

    I am hopeful that this change will finally get more folks to finally get off their asses and vote in these elections. Research analysis from MapBox showed that during the 2019 mayoral elections, the highest voter turnouts (62.5%) came from the North and East Ends. A majority of the other areas, especially south of the river, only saw voter turnouts of around 14.6%.

    Her Highness thanks you for staying home.

  14. western guy
    Jun 30, 2021, 6:43 pm

    Nate: right on!

    Steve: Yes, the Republicans took over the County Commission and now want to use the district approach (do you hear me, West and SW Boise City) to assault the City Council. But…. this means good candidates need to GET OUT THE VOTE.

  15. John Gannon
    Jun 30, 2021, 7:23 pm

    I went back and forth on this. I do believe public participation is a key to good public policy. The council could have gone to work on this a long time ago and gotten input such as mine which is the Central Bench area is divided up and there is not the community of interest in each district that one would expect. Likewise the NW is lumped with the NE instead of West Boise. Our City should be about quality of life and services and empowering all areas to participate regardless of which election method is used.

  16. Concerned Neighbor
    Jul 1, 2021, 6:19 am

    The Guardian pointed out his own hypocrisy – the current council only represents the North End. Districts are necessary to break that and bring some kind of representation to the rest of the city. As it is, they have dragged out representation to the rest of the city by at least 3 years, and time is the most valuable commodity there is.

  17. Steve Berch
    Jul 1, 2021, 7:34 am

    Western Guy: I’m not inherently opposed to a district approach to electing Boise City Council positions.

    I am opposed to how the Republican-controlled state legislature violated its own principle of government being best when its closest to the people by having the state tell a local government how to manage its affairs (similarly to how they hate it when the federal government does the same thing to the state).

    This new law was written at the same time citizens of Boise showed that they can implement major change on their own without the state’s intrusion. They unseated a 16-year incumbent mayor and passed initiatives that stopped an expensive library and ball field from being built.

    It would be nice to see the legislature trust the people instead of playing “big brother” as it micro-manages local governments.

  18. Concerned Neighbor: Your assessment is flawed. The current Council represents the entire City. The bias of their vote may be in question but the location of their residence is irrelevant. They stood for election citywide. If a lack of opposing candidates or voter turnout allowed them to win, so be it. Just a fact of the election process and apathetic voter choice. If you couldn’t find a viable opposition candidate on a volunteer basis, why would you expect to find a quality one through the coercion of a neighborhood district? requirement.

  19. Representative Berch, does anything the majority party in the Legislature surprise you any more? It doesn’t me…

    I’ve always found it incredibly ironic how jealous the Republicans in Idaho are about “not letting the Feds tell them what to do”, but they quickly turn around and assert what I perceive to be excessive amounts of authority in local affairs (note: they are certainly within their legal lane in doing so; but as I was taught long ago, what is legal isn’t always right). Whether it is local option taxes, overriding the jurisdiction of school boards, or the issue at hand of city elections, it’s obvious they don’t believe sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    I’d like to point out if people south of the river (like me!) would vote (which I always do), none of this would have happened. I’ll also point out that districting cannot create viable candidates, and that until people outside the North/East End start finding those good candidates, all we are going to do is elect a city government that will be disfunctional at best.

    Please don’t take the above paragraph as disparaging people from parts of Boise other than the North/East Ends. Like I said, I live in South Boise. Steve Berch is in West Boise, I had the privilege of voting for Mr. Gannon in the past, and there are plenty of dedicated citizens in neighborhood organizations.

  20. I think it’s a bit unfair to bitch about people outside of the north,/ east not voting at the same rate as the in crowd. Why vote when the candidates are all north enders? At least this way they have candidates with a chance of being representative.

  21. Easterner: Incumbents in district 3 & 5 have announced. Incumbent in 1 has declined. Which resident of the neighborhood do you suppose will step up? Perhaps the aforementioned Rebecca?

  22. Perhaps Caeth. A perennial politician doing the work for the developers, including her neighbor, payer, and campaign contributor. https://boiseguardian.com/2018/11/14/achd-commishes-defer-bridge-decision/
    I had forgot she even ran for mayor- lost bigly- although she did get more votes that Brent Coles. lol

  23. I don’t think it is a forgone conclusion with these districts that “south of the river” will somehow generate the red flavored councilmembers for which the proponents are hoping to get.

    For example, seeing the 2017 CITY results by precinct for Lisa Sanchez shows that she consistently pulled favor of 33% to 70%.
    South of the river, in District 20 precincts, her lowest (normal) numbers were still 27-ish and only separated by a small number of voters from the lead.
    I’ll bet a tally within these new districts would show similar results:
    Boise is Blue overall. Blue & orange!

    Erico49, here is the City candidate list for 2017- not all Northenders.
    https://boiseguardian.com/2019/10/29/where-boise-candidates-live/

    And how did those NW, SW, S candidates do on their home turf?

  24. Branden Durst
    Jul 2, 2021, 3:04 pm

    Disagree, Dave. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue, it is unfortunate that Democrats have made it one. This is about giving each part of city a voice in their municipal government.

    As to this particular map, I’ll just say that the Boise City Council may be happy with themselves for managing to protect themselves by oddly dividing up the city (see Gerrymandering), but this map will be Exhibit A for why we need to make sure that City is no longer in charge of deciding how its districts are made. I look forward to lobbying my friends in the legislature to that end.

  25. Julie Hulvey
    Jul 2, 2021, 7:46 pm

    I do believe that there is another adjustment forthcoming when the 2020 census data is available. My two cents would be that it is time for the council to add seats and instead of six council people have seven or eight. That helps with these maps and it also helps with undue influence among council members.

  26. IFF employee Branden Durst in an earlier post on a related topic suggested that the county commission could draw municipal districts. Now there is a political body devoid of petty partisanship. LOL. We recently traded a left-wing ideologue for a certifiable right-wing zealot. (We can guess who he supported for sheriff; although, he refuses to say. The vote against Matt Clifford is truly despicable.)

    The radical right faction in the legislature made the issue both personal and partisan from the get-go. I recommend readers review past news articles regarding SB1111 and HB319 in the 2021 session and about the frustrations expressed by GOP Senator Winder.

  27. Branden Durst says “This shouldn’t be a partisan issue” and wants to point a finger at the Dems. Yet it was IN FACT the Republicans that made the law as a direct result of Boise Dems influencing the council. And BDurst stated in social media March of 2020, his support of the bill and the legislators working on it.

    The Dems were doing just fine having their way- based on BOISE voters. The Republicans MADE IT A PARTISAN issue.

    State control over local issues. Nice republican platform!

    True to form Durst is confused.
    I make it direct, only because now he is running for State Superintendent- as a Republican. The same B Durst that previously served Democratic legislative District 18 Senator.

    And then showed he was really confused whether he was an Idaho resident or a Washington resident, despite being in the Idaho Legislature- ignoring the applicable laws = Zero political credibility.
    Only last year did he decide to switch teams- after a couple other runs at Dem education representation. Why would that be?
    If you can’t beat em, join em?
    And to run for School Super- must be a big burr until his saddle about Idaho education.
    I’ll take a guess, but better we wait for his words as to “which ‘friends'” he might lobby concerning the new districts.

    JSwift, you are thinking of Dustin Hurst (IFF and friend to I.T support contractor for McGeachin, PMiller).
    But oddly enough many IFF supporters (LIBERTARIANS) are supporting BDurst (Dem? in Libertarian clothing) in his quest.
    An L is not an R, or D in this case.

  28. As per usual, liberals can’t defend their arguments with logic and reason, so they go to feelings and insults.

    But as I stated originally, this shouldn’t be a partisan issue. And to suggest it was only Republicans who wanted this change is foolhardy. In fact, I know of several prominent Democrats who would be insulted by that insinuation (e.g. George Moses, Dave Kangas, etc.).

    And yes, I fully support the county commission being responsible for appointing members to a citizen redistricting commission. This is a very similar process as is done at the state level, which Democrats claim they love.

  29. Branden, what happened? You certainly don’t seem to be the same person I voted for years ago. I guess something somewhere changed. The ad hominem attack against “liberals” troubles me, because that certainly doesn’t line up with the Brandon I thought I voted for in the past.

    So, I think you’ll find most of us think districting in the city is OK. My objection has more to do with how it was brought about (via legislators not even from Boise) and the fact that if you look at candidates over the years for the council in Boise, you’ll see very few running from the areas of the city that claim to be under-represented. Like I said previously, districting doesn’t suddenly create better candidates.

    I’d be a lot more comfortable with the whole districting model if I still got to vote in all races, but the candidates were required to live in the district they are running for. I’m also a firm believer against anything that brings partisan politics to local elections, so we can’t be having partisan county commissioners drawing the lines. How about some sort of volunteer group?

    I really want everyone to feel fairly represented (even if I don’t get my viewpoints considered by the Legislature). But part of that is realizing you don’t always win, or at least that’s what all my Canyon County friends tell me.

  30. From the person who wants to be the state education boss, “to suggest it was only Republicans who wanted this change is foolhardy.”

    The bill, HB413, passed the
    House 53-16-1
    Senate 26-8-1
    Foolhardy? Any guesses how many Democrats voted for the bill?
    Are opportunity carpetbaggers foolhardy?

    https://legislature.idaho.gov/sessioninfo/2020/legislation/H0413/

    George Moses and Karen Danley certainly prompted the bill but the votes before the gavel are what matter.
    At the time Councilman Bageant noted that in the 2013 election, none of the NEWLY elected Boise City Council members were from the North End. He pointed out Councilwoman Elaine Clegg won majorities in every neighborhood in the city, and said under the bill, five out of six Boise residents wouldn’t be allowed to vote for her (the Editor’s point).

  31. Branden Durst
    Jul 8, 2021, 4:42 pm

    JoJo – I apologize for the ad hominem attack. As to your point, as Eastern keeps pointing, there was no appetite by the Boise City Council to address this issue because they don’t think it is a problem. I strongly disagree and I am thankful that the state legislature intervened on behalf of disaffected voters. With regard to the ability to vote in all races, the problem with that, in my opinion, is that I don’t want the North End deciding who the SW Boise city council member is. I understand that people liked being able to vote for all six council members, but doing so created the problem that districts are trying to avoid. As to the method of drawing boundaries, the trouble is how you identify and select volunteers. I’d gladly volunteer. At some point, the panel has to be constructed and that will be an inherently political decision. If you have ideas on how we could create a citizens panel that is fair, please share it (sincerely).

  32. Branden, I appreciate both the apology and the response. I knew you could turn the candidate mode off 🙂

    So, I understand your point, I think. And I get that parts of the city (including mine) are probably underrepresented on the council. To me, however, it’s incredibly ironic that the same political party that is pushing districts to provide “equality of representation” is the same one pushing so hard on the state and national levels to disenfranchise underrepresented groups. The hypocrisy of our Legislature never fails to amaze me…

    Like I pointed out previously, districting doesn’t automatically result in good candidates. And turnout in most of Boise has historical been low for municipal elections. Why should people who have been willing to get involved in the political process and get out and vote be penalized? I really don’t understand that thinking.

    As an aside, it’s obvious you’ve had quite the ideological journey. I didn’t really see much of an explanation on your campaign website. I for one would be really interested in how you got where you are (not to poke holes in it, but because it may highlight things about myself I need to examine). If there’s some way for you to share that, please do so!

    Thanks!

  33. Branden Durst
    Jul 15, 2021, 1:48 pm

    Jo Jo – I am always open to having a conversation. Feel free to reach out. My phone number is on my website.

  34. I am very much hoping that with all that’s happening in this nation…the sleeping Giant of core values that have been stepped on has awakened and we will see fresh new political blood fight for their voice in ALL races….City, County, School Board, Judicial…as well as State and US Congress. We are gonna find out just who is paying attention and who is not.

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