Group wants ‘fair’ political boundaries
July 7, 2009
Voters might decide in 2010 whether to form an independent commission to redraw political boundaries in Utah.
The Fair Boundaries group hopes the matter ends up on the ballot if signatures on an initiative petition are collected from about 95,000 registered voters in most of Utah’s 29 counties. At issue is whether Utah’s heavily Republican state Legislature weakened the influence of other political parties in Summit County when the region was spilt between tow state Senate and two House districts nearly a decade ago.
Summit County Democrats want an independent panel to oversee the statewide redistricting process on the heels of the 2010 census.
"Voters feel like it doesn’t matter whether they show up to the polls," said Fair Boundaries Executive Director Nikki Norton, a Park City Democrat.
The Legislature upset Democrats by dividing Summit County into two districts in the House and Senate because that map serves the GOP. The local House district was sliced into two, sending some people who live on the West Side into District 25 in the Salt Lake valley and lopping the rest into District 53, which includes rural areas of Rich, Morgan, Wasatch and Daggett counties.
The state senator who represents eastern Summit County in District 19 lives in North Ogden and Park City’s senator in District 26 lives in Vernal, more than 100 miles from Old Town.
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"In drawing lines, you should draw around cities, not through them," Norton told a small crowd Monday at a Fair Boundaries public hearing at the Sheldon Richins Building.
Fair Boundaries suggests forming an 11-member, nonpartisan redistricting panel with no more than four members from the same political party.
The commission could have only three unaffiliated voters, Norton explained.
Boundaries for elections are redrawn by the Legislature every 10 years after the federal census.
"Around the state districts are drawn in very confusing manners that don’t make a lot of sense," Norton said.
Jeremy Ranch resident Gary Shumway in 2006 campaigned for House District 53 as a member of the Libertarian Party.
"We need fair representation," Shumway said.
District 53, which includes Democrat-dominated Park City, was created to keep Republicans in office by including conservatives from outlying rural areas.
"Why aren’t those people on the south side of I-80 not up here?" Shumway said about Snyderville Basin residents who live in District 25.
Shumway said he would sign the redistricting petition.
To meet with his state representative in District 25, Summit Park resident J Dewell, said he shouldn’t have to drive 30 minutes.
"It really pisses me off," Dewell said. "My representative is somebody in Salt Lake City."
Fair Boundaries has until April 2010, to gather the signatures needed to place the initiative before voters the following November.
However, the Legislature, which must approve the redistricting map, may block the process if voters opt to form an independent redistricting commission.
"The Legislature can approve any sort of map that they want," Norton said.