Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Party Lines: How vital is the current redistricting initiative?
Although the Fair Boundaries initiative’s primary drafter was a Republican, this initiative and the Fair Boundaries coalition is a nonpartisan coalition whose purpose is to set up an independent redistricting commission to replace the committee of legislators that normally draw the map every 10 years following the United States census.
One phrase I have heard too often during my travels throughout Utah as the former state vice chair of the Utah Democratic Party has been, “I don’t vote because my vote doesn’t count.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that excuse, but after thoroughly investigating the current lines drawn in 2001 by the Legislature it is easy to see that the current boundaries were drawn to give the advantage to GOP office holders, by breaking up communities to ensure that the GOP candidate wins. No wonder so many Utahns feel like their vote is meaningless.
In my eyes having the Legislature decide the boundaries is a huge conflict of interest. As I said before, legislators should not be picking their voters, we should, as voters, and as communities, be picking our legislators, and that is the simple reason why the Fair Boundaries coalition was founded and the 11-member commission is needed, to ensure that your community is safe from the current process that hews to no values, and therefore, no accountability beyond the broad rules set forth by the Supreme Court. On the other hand, the Fair Boundaries initiative does provide values, and hence, accountability.
Think of this: Accountability, values, principles, and rules made in law instead of by the courts. The Fair Boundaries initiative provides a system of checks and balances where communities and people are prioritized over politics.
With an 85 percent of Utahns wanting ethics reform in the Legislature, the Fair Boundaries initiative is a great step forward to achieving that reform, but unfortunately, like with the voucher referendum, many of our elected GOP officials are ignoring the voice of the people, and are trying to confuse the issue by claiming that there isn’t a problem, or that this initiative is a “Liberal” attack on conservatism. Nothing could be further from the truth, and one could wonder why any elected official who proclaims to be patriotic would want to discourage an initiative that is aimed at furthering the interest of democracy.
In a state that is among the lowest voter turnout rate in the nation it would seem that it would be important to elected officials, stewards of the people, to do everything in their power to ensure that every registered voter’s vote does count.
In 1989 President Ronald Reagan warned Americans of the “conflicts of interest” legislators have in drawing their own districts, and it is my belief that no election should ever be a forgone conclusion. You can learn more about this issue at www.fairboundaries.org.