What a mess this is. Rep. Craig Frank got a nasty surprise over the weekend when he found out that he doesn’t actually live in the district he was elected to represent. Utah County has kept its mouth shut about the bad maps it had been handing out, the legislature is trying to get a special session to get Rep. Frank re-districted back into his seat, and there’s plenty of blame and finger-pointing going around. I feel a little bit bad for everyone.
The voters are the ones really hosed. As many as 3300 are in electoral limbo now, unsure of who represents them in Congress or the legislature. Rep. Frank also got a raw deal because he bought a house based on the bad Utah County maps and ended up on, quite literally, the wrong side of the street. The Utah County Clerk is trying to figure out how it all went wrong.
In all of it though, nobody is asking why it happened. A big part of it is that the area in question was a whole lot of nothing when boundaries were originally drawn in 2001. Then Cedar Hills incorporated, started annexing bits of county land, houses and roads started going up, and before you know it, where exactly those lines used to be starts getting a bit fuzzy. It’s a lot like trying to establish the ownership of a mortgage after it has changed hands a half dozen times in just a few years.
This is all a job of the county surveyor. So how did that ball get dropped? Is the office understaffed? Are they using poor practices? Is it a case of bad leadership? All roads lead there. The surveyor is required by Utah Code 17-23-1 to hash out such details. We should be asking not just how and why it didn’t get done properly, but how it got messed up to the tune of 3300 voters, a not so insignificant number of people. That’s the question not being asked.
While I appreciate that something needs to be done, Speaker Lockhart’s push to change the boundaries to include Rep. Frank again just doesn’t feel right somehow. (The House GOP Caucus apparently feels the same and voted down a special session to address it.) I know, the voters picked him, he thought he had determined he’d still be eligible for the office, and you can’t really blame either of them. We have to ask ourselves, however, if such a remedy would still be employed if the mistake was discovered, but Rep. Frank was still living inside his district. I would guess probably not. It also seems kind of rash to make a quick fix now ahead of a redistricting process that refuses to draw an incumbent outside of their district, even if all other reasons say to do so. Such a change now could drastically alter the boundaries of current districts in both houses.
In all, we have a bad situation and no particularly good fixes. I hope that expediency doesn’t win out here.