ARGUMENT IN FAVOR
VOTE “YES” ON PROPOSITION 4
Voters should choose their representatives, not vice versa.
Yet under current law, Utah politicians can choose their voters. Legislators draw their own legislative districts with minimal transparency, oversight, or checks on inherent conflicts of interest. As a result, politicians wield unbridled power to design districts to ensure their own re-election. This is called “gerrymandering.”
Gerrymandering is not new. But in recent years it has gotten out of control. Sophisticated computer modeling allows incumbents to craft districts with a precision the framers of the Utah Constitution could not have foreseen. Incumbents of both parties do this, with the result that Utah is divided into districts that empower politicians, not voters.
For example, Holladay City is splintered into four State House districts, two State Senate districts and two Congressional districts. Who benefits from this? Holladay voters don’t, but politicians do. Incumbents in safe districts are less responsive to voters and more responsive to special interests. In short, gerrymandering makes representative democracy less representative.
To be fair, we can’t expect legislators to fix the system. It benefits them. We the People must fix it.
Proposition 4 returns power to the voters and puts people first in our political system. It does this by enacting the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission and Standards Act. The Act addresses the problem of gerrymandering in two ways.
First, it creates a seven-member Independent Redistricting Commission. The Governor and Legislative leaders appoint the Commissioners, at least two of whom must be politically unaffiliated. To promote impartiality, lobbyists, current and recently retired elected officials, political party leaders, and government appointees may not serve as Commissioners. With citizen input, the Commission draws proposed district boundaries for Utah’s congressional, legislative, and State school board districts. It then submits these electoral maps to the Legislature as required by the Utah Constitution. The Legislature can enact or reject the Commission’s proposed maps. If it rejects them, it must explain why to the citizens.
Second, the Act requires that, in drawing districts, the Commission and the Legislature abide by common-sense redistricting standards to the greatest extent practicable. These standards include:
- Adhering to the U.S. and Utah Constitutions and other applicable law
- Preserving equal populations among districts
- Keeping municipalities and counties together
- Creating districts that are compact and contiguous
- Respecting traditional neighborhoods and communities of interest
- Following geographic features and natural barriers
Most importantly, the Act forbids drawing districts to unduly favor or disfavor any incumbent, candidate, or political party. And it allows Utah voters to challenge a map enacted by the Legislature that violates these standards.
By placing common-sense limits on politicians’ power to design their districts, Proposition 4 will ensure that our representative government serves people, not politicians. It will make the redistricting process more transparent, increase voter participation, and make the politicians we elect more responsive and accountable to the people who elect them.
In short, it will ensure that Utah voters have a government of the People, by the People, and for the People.
Uthans for Responsive Government/Better Boundaries
2630 East Stringham Avenue
Salt Lake City, UT 84109
Jeff Wright (R)
Co-Chair, Better Boundaries
Park City, UT 84060
Ralph Becker (D)
Co-Chair, Better Boundaries
5 South 500 West #102
Salt Lake City, UT 84102
REBUTTAL TO ARGUMENT IN FAVOR
Proposition 4 sponsors’ best argument seems to be that giving an unelected commission authority in the redistricting process will result in a more accountable government. If that is true, it must be done by a constitutional amendment and not by an initiative petition.
In 2011 the legislative redistricting committee held over thirty public, open, and transparent meetings throughout the state. They received and considered hundreds of public comments and even provided a dedicated website for citizens to draw, submit, and comment on maps.
Backed by Ralph Becker and other liberal Salt Lake City Democrats and funded by out of state interest groups, Proposition 4 is a cleverly disguised partisan power grab.
- It unconstitutionally gives redistricting authority to unelected bureaucrats and judges.
- It deliberately imposes vague and conflicting redistricting requirements to throw the doors wide open for lawsuits.
- 4 out of 5 of its sponsors are liberal Democrats from Salt Lake City (if you include the one who became Republican right before sponsoring).
- 70% of the nearly $1 Million behind the initiative are from OUT OF STATE special interest groups.
- Over half of the in-state donations came from inside of Salt Lake City proper.
The framers of the Utah Constitution ensured that redistricting would be anchored in the voice of the people by exclusively entrusting this authority to the legislature.
A vote for Proposition 4 is a vote to unconstitutionally silence the voice of the majority of people in Utah and allow unelected bureaucrats and judges redistricting authority
Senator Ralph Okerlund
Utah State Senate