Curtis Haring at Blue in Red Zion recently expressed his dismay at the failure to collect enough signatures to get the Fair Boundaries initiative onto November’s ballot. I supported this initiative because of the way that neighborhoods were often divided amongst several legislative districts. Examples of this include Tooele being split four ways and the Avenues being cut in half. Basically, the boundaries of many districts looked like the boundaries of many African nations, drawn not with consideration to who lived there, but to who wanted to control the land. Curtis says that the failure to get Fair Boundaries on the ballot means that the initiative process in Utah is blatantly unconstitutional. Despite my support of the initiative, I doubt I could disagree more.
It’s no secret that district boundaries for elective office are often drawn in creative ways. Districts are often made to favor a particular political party or candidate with little regard for the identity of the voters in the district. All too often, neighborhoods are divided up or dissimilar neighborhoods lumped together to satisfy one of these needs. It has become particularly egregious in Utah with Tooele County divided up into four chunks for its State Senate district and Salt Lake County split three ways for purposes of creating US House districts. Rural areas get drowned out by being paired up with a significant urban population. This kind of abusive redistricting cannot continue.
We can, however, find problems with proposed solutions to these issues. All too often, the response is drafted by and spearheaded by a minority party in an attempt to grab hold of more electoral power behind a mask of fairness. I took the time today to read through the Fair Boundaries initiative to make sure that it addresses this problem in a logical and truly non-partisan fashion. I’m glad to report that its emphasis on drawing districts by neighborhood and geography with an emphasis on compactness not only makes sense, it appears to be free of any partisan influence.
I support the Fair Boundaries initiative and I hope you will too.