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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Drawing the Map

Everyone knows Utah deserves a fourth seat in Congress. Everyone except North Carolina supports addressing that injustice.

We may have another shot at it.

One key question demands answers before we go forward:

What sort of process should we use to draw a map dividing the state into four congressional districts within the incredibly short time frame that some in Congress, apparently, are demanding?

Can we do it fast enough and still do it right?

Those who have been through redistricting know that this doesn’t happen by magic.

For thirty years we have followed a meticulous process to solicit and obtain public input. It's not perfect, but it is at least thorough. The legislature:
  • Appoints a Redistricting Committee;
  • Establishes a transparent process emphasizing public involvement;
  • Adopts governing principles to promote fairness;
  • Solicits public input, which includes public hearings statewide;
  • Prepares, deliberates, and chooses among alternate plans;
After a careful and thorough process we convene in special session to adopt a final map. In a nutshell: we do the job right. Those who think we can fast-track the new maps are essentially asking us to forgo public participation and limit principles of fairness.

We need your input, folks. How far down this road are we willing to walk to get our fourth seat?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a four seat plan on the books that went through that process. Is it not acceptable now simply because it was universally panned as unfair? What would make this new map any better? Legislators should not be drawing maps. It is time to change the process.

11/14/2006 11:44 AM  
Anonymous implications said...

Independent commissions should draw the boundaries in all states.

However, this ALSO has to do with giving DC a Democratic voice in Congress. Are they going to want senators next? Will Puerto Rico, Guam, America Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, and others demand the same representation too? This could potentially be a lot bigger than gaining a simple seat (which we probably will in a few years anyways).

11/14/2006 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forgot to list this on the Legislature's redistricting "to-do" list:

* Prepares and adopts a plan that is most likely to protect the political party in power.

11/14/2006 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back when the current congressional seats were drawn up, it seemed obvious that Matheson's district was drawn to make him lose. Even the Wall St Journal editorialized about how redistricting had gotten out of hand in America, and they used Utah as the prime example of bad politics in gerrymandering (they even showed the Utah map right on the editorial page). They quoted Reagan decrying the naked politics of redistricting. If I recall right, the response from Utah politicos was "Hey, that's just politics -- redistricting is always political." So, Ric, how does that history square with your description of a careful, thorough, meticulous, right, and fair process?

11/14/2006 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Brian Watkins said...

I wouldn't be so proud of the fair process used in the past. The maps drawn in 2001 were unpopular among everyone except the leadership of the Utah Republican Party.
Holding hearings and then ignoring the people isn't the same as an open process.
The districts drawn in 2001 even ignored the one-man-one-vote rule. I have documented today at Brian's Utah Weblog that somehow the Republican held districts were drawn as if Utah were 40,000 citizens smaller than the Democraitc held Districts. That wasn't by chance. Republicans were packing in Democrats contrary to Supreme Court rulings for partisan advantage.
There's no point pretending that Utah redistricting is anything but an insider scheme. I recommend the legislature draw two competitive districts and two strong Republican districts wherever they think it will promote their own interests and see if the national Congress will go for it.

11/14/2006 2:23 PM  
Anonymous The Man said...

What's the hurry? We'll get our fourth seat in 2012 without having to give one to D.C. The main motivation for creating a fourth seat now is that ONE lucky Utah politician will go to D.C. four years earlier than would otherwise be the case.

We shouldn't be too concerned over how the districts are drawn. Matheson will win whatever district the Republicans give him.

11/14/2006 4:41 PM  
Blogger The Senate Site said...

Good news: We recieved new information this afternoon that may allow us to provide for a fourth seat without the wholesale abandonment of due process. I'll probably post a new blog and answer some of the questions, above, when today's meetings are over. Give me about 2 hours.

11/14/2006 5:58 PM  
Blogger Jesse Harris said...

I don't like the idea of the plan at all. DC is not a state and is not entitled to representation without changing the Constitution. It's also contrary to well-established practice to reapportion without a new census. We should never let the popularity of a bill override the paramount obligation to follow the highest law of the land. By not demanding a Constitutional Amendment to make this new seat legal, you become an accessory to the blatant violation of the US Constitution by Congress.

11/14/2006 8:47 PM  
Blogger jcox said...

I'm all for the gerrymandering. After all, didn't the Founding Fathers establish a bicameral Congress where the people elected one group and the state legislatures selected the other? We have the same today, thanks to gerrymandering and the 17th Amendment, just flipped around.

You guys aren't still trying to eliminate that whole 17th Amendment thing, are you? Otherwise, I would have to oppose your gerrymandering. That Jim Matheson has been a thorn in your side for too long, I know. Now instead of trying to replace him with a Republican, you'll try to get some ultra-liberal like Rocky to take his place.

Then, we can all feel comfortable with our eternal hatred towards the Democratic Party. Matheson blurred the line too much. He's gotta go.

11/14/2006 11:00 PM  
Blogger The Senate Site said...

So much for two hours . . .

Thanks for the excellent comments. Here are a few cursory observations for now and we’ll pick it up again tomorrow.

Regarding Anonymous #1 and 'Implications' opinion that "independent commissions should draw the boundaries . . . ."

Many people share that thought. The feeling around here is that independent commissions . . . aren’t. Talk to our sister states who have taken the plunge – Idaho, for example – and they will tell you that independent commissions are NOT independent. Neither are they non-partisan. Like the legislature, they tend to be political. Unlike the legislature, they are not elected and are not accountable to the voters. Their allegiance tends to fall along the lines of the person or persons who appointed them.

At the very least you can hold legislators accountable in the court of public opinion and at the ballot box.

11/15/2006 12:56 AM  
Blogger The Senate Site said...

Re: Anonymous #3’s question: "how does that history square with your description of a careful, thorough, meticulous, right, and fair process?"

'Right' and 'fair' are probably in the eye of the beholder. We described an historic (past 30 years) verifiable legislative process that is meticulous, careful and thorough, and in that sense is "doing it right."

The alternative, of course, is that we neglect the basics. How many corners can we cut before we get sued? As you know, this great nation houses attorneys and law firms who base their entire profession on picking apart state redistricting efforts. Most states’ maps end up in Court. Not ours. That is because we dot our i’s and cross our t’s. (Thanks in large part, to excellent legal counsel and professional legislative staff.)

The worst case scenario is we slap together an inadequate map, get sued, spend millions in legal defense and end up losing in court.

11/15/2006 1:03 AM  
Blogger The Senate Site said...

Re: "Holding hearings and then ignoring the people. . . "

Como? Last go-around was a seven-month process, start to finish. We spend a tremendous amount of energy soliciting and taking public input. In many cases we changed maps as a result of that input. Cedar City is a good example.

11/15/2006 1:07 AM  
Blogger The Senate Site said...

Re: "I wouldn't be so proud of the fair process used in the past."

Didn’t mean to sound proud – I was going for accurate.

11/15/2006 1:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems obvious that this is a constitutional issue, as pointed out by Jesse Harris when he said

"We should never let the popularity of a bill override the paramount obligation to follow the highest law of the land. By not demanding a Constitutional Amendment to make this new seat legal, you become an accessory to the blatant violation of the US Constitution by Congress."

I have yet to hear any credible argument against this point of view. If there is one, I'd like to hear it. How does one simply dismiss this argument?

11/15/2006 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Colleagues:

Fourth Seat Slippery Slide

The proposed compromise to get Utah a 4th congressional seat is a very poor trade and unwise for the future.
In return for a Western Republican, Utah seat for possibly 4 years (until we get it legitimately in 2012) we give Washington D.C. and the Eastern Democrats an extra seat forever. That doesn’t seem like a fair trade.
The amount of time we get that seat could be reduced by court challenges, since the Constitution states that only the states may elect representatives. After the next census, giving a seat to Washington D.C. would mean one taken away from another state. Any state, which feels threatened by losing a seat at that census, might file a lawsuit now.
By granting D.C. a seat in the House, we take away any grounds to refuse them two Senate seats in the future as well. If the courts allow this statutory change in conflict with the Constitution, no court could prevent them from petitioning for Senate seats.
The proposal is Constitutionally flawed, not equitable, and bad policy for the future. I urge your blockage of this legislation.

David N. Cox

11/15/2006 8:22 AM  
Blogger Michael Richards said...

I could not agree more with Jesse and David on this issue. Please accept my apology beforehand if you (Senator) have addressed this elsewhere, but why does it seem that every politician in this state that is asked to comment on the Constitutionality of this proposal fails to either address it or dismisses it altogether? I have only talked with one representative in this state who has publically said that there is a Constitutional question in this and it needs to be looked at. That is still waffling, but at least he said something about it.

I do not disagree that Utah deserves a 4th seat. That is not the issue. But this is the WRONG way to go about it.

This issue is but one more that we can point to where Utah politicians have seized upon a "feel good" issue that is Constitutionally questionable. Why can't they see that? I won't mention others (that is another topic), but it seems that no politician TRULY understands. Please address this Senator. We would really like to know how you feel about it.

11/15/2006 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Brian Watkins said...

I agree with the Honorable Rep. Cox and Mr. Richards reluctantly. I want the fourth seat, but it's not constitutional. Our current Supreme Court doesn't seem to care much for what the Constitution actually says, though, so it'll probably pass muster.

The new bill will permanently expand the House to 436 or 437, depending on the version so no state will be able to claim disenfranchisement.

We should add a fourth seat to Utah, add D.C. representation with D.C. statehood, and then balance D.C. statehood with an additional new western state. I suggest British Columbia for our new state (54° 40' or fight!).

Read Brian's Utah Weblog.

11/15/2006 2:29 PM  
Anonymous Marie said...

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this political game. The fourth seat would give us one extra politician to represent us, possibly stir up this last week's election results by forcing a new election, and DC gets representation equal to statehood? But if we are patient, we can see that fourth seat happen in 2 more congressional terms, and DC stays with the status quo. How is it right to rush into this thing? Sounds like a pre-nup just not worth signing. I think it's worth waiting for.

11/16/2006 11:49 AM  

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