The Park Record editorial, September 30, 2009 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, September 30, 2009

It's time to put an end to gerrymandering shenanigans

Along with death and taxes, a fatalist would say that redistricting and the gerrymandering shenanigans that go with it — is one more inevitability. With the 2010 Census coming up, there is a high likelihood that federal and state lawmakers will want to take another shot at tinkering with their political boundaries and not necessarily with the best interests of the public in mind.

There is a high probability the census will indicate that Utah’s growing population qualifies the state for a fourth congressional district and, on the state level, that Summit County may finally merit a house district that doesn’t slop over into Rich and Daggett counties.

Lines are already being proposed for the potential fourth U.S. House District. Of course, conservative interests want to curb the clout of traditionally liberal urban centers like Salt Lake City by shaving off sections and assigning them to rural legislators. That’s why Salt Lakers can be found in each of the three congressional districts, competing for their legislators’ time and attention with constituents from the farthest corners of the state whose priorities are often vastly different.

And because they are in the minority, Democrats usually find themselves redistricted right into oblivion.

That’s what happened when state lawmakers revamped House District 53, splitting off part of the Snyderville Basin from the rest of the county, thereby making it virtually impossible to elect a Democratic representative.

So, it is understandable that, when it comes to another round of redistricting committee meetings, Utah Democrats are pretty fatalistic. Fortunately, though, there are a few optimists among the cynics and they have already begun to mobilize.

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The group Fair Boundaries is planning a preemptive strike on the process by calling for an initiative to set up an independent nonpartisan redistricting commission. As proposed by Fair Boundaries, the commission would be comprised of 11 members with no more than four from one political party. The commission would also be charged with trying to keep existing communities intact. Granted, it is an uphill battle, however, the group is getting an early start.

But putting the initiative in place in time to make a difference requires public awareness and involvement. That starts tonight at 6 p.m. at the Santy Auditorium in the Park City Library and Education Center on Park Avenue. Members of Fair Boundaries will be on hand to explain their initiative and to solicit help in circulating their petition. Their goal is to collect 95,000 signatures in order to place the measure on the ballot in November of 2010. It is an important issue and if you wait until the political lines are drawn in the sand, it will be too late.