Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Party Lines: How vital is the current redistricting initiative? ♠

by Todd Weiler, 

What’s in a name? If I say I am against the Fair Boundaries Initiative (“FBI”), then that makes me in favor or

something unfair, doesn’t it? And no one wants to be perceived as being unfair.

Another problem with the name is that it assumes that the status quo is unfair. And I reject the underlying premise that our duly elected legislators are inherently corrupt. Yes, some gerrymandering takes place. And it has been taking place for 200 years. Rob Miller will invariably reference the re-drawing of the second congressional district eight years ago to try to favor a Republican win over Jim Matheson. While it’s true that it happened, it was also widely reported in the media. The result? Jim Matheson was re-elected four more times and is now poised to run for a statewide office. A case could be made that the voters who were offended by the overreaching went to the polls and showed their dissatisfaction. That’s democracy in action.

Utah currently follows a meticulous process to solicit and obtain public input for redistricting plans. While I will concede it's not perfect, it is certainly thorough. As things stand today, the Legislature: (1) appoints a redistricting committee; (2) establishes a transparent process that emphasizing public involvement; (3) adopts governing principles to promote fairness; (4) solicits public input, which includes public hearings statewide; (5) prepares, deliberates, and chooses among alternate plans; and (6) convenes in special session to adopt a final map.

Our government was founded on a system of checks and balances. The FBI seeks to strip power away from the legislative branch and give it to an extra-governmental committee with no check and no balance. The authority to appoint members to the commission would be delegated to three organizations that currently lobby the Legislature: three members appointed by the Utah Association of Counties, three more by the Utah League of Cities and Towns, and one by the state school board. The remaining four members would be chosen by the first seven appointees.

The primary intent of the FBI appears to be to create political districts that respect municipal boundaries. While that may be a worthy goal on the surface, it is uniformly unachievable on a macro level and may not even be desirable. I have lived in Woods Cross for 12 years. Currently, six of the seven precincts are represented by Roger Barrus, and the seventh by Sheryl Allen. Is that a bad thing? The FBI would seek to consolidate all seven precincts into one legislative district. So right now, if the Mayor of Woods Cross needs some help in the Legislature, he can rightfully call on two representative for help. If FBI goes into effect, then he will likely only be able to bend the ear of one. I may be missing something, but a small city like Woods Cross appears to benefit from having two voices instead of just one on Capitol Hill.

1 comment:

Andrew McCullough said...

This is, of course, justification by Republicans of a system which seeks to perpetuate the Party's power. A less political process is needed to bring a more balanced legislative branch of government. As a Libertarian, I support a more diverse legislature, and hope that the initiative is a small first step in bringing that to Utah.