It seems that many of our elected officials in Utah have completely embraced the idea that whatever it takes, we go all out to get a fourth congressional seat before the next census.
The job of reapportioning the state is the responsibility of the state Legislature. I know that a job in the Legislature is difficult, having served in that body as a member and also as speaker of the House. I appreciate and compliment them on the fine work they do. If there is a chink in their armor, it is when they have taken on the task of reapportioning the federal congressional districts. Possibly it is because many of them feature themselves walking the halls of Congress in the future. There is nothing wrong with good and experienced legislators aspiring to go to Washington, and many of our best federal legislators come from state legislative bodies.
However, reapportionment should not be used to gerrymander a safe district for anyone or to give an unfair advantage. In my 22 years as a congressman, my biggest disappointment has been the cavalier approach to the congressional reapportionment. It is not what the Legislature normally does, and unfortunately, it is usually not done well.
Our sister states of Arizona and Idaho could see the problem and formed advisory councils to handle reapportionment. Both states, that I am aware of, are very satisfied with the outcome.
Frankly, Utah is being used to the detriment of the country. Legislators here told me their only job was to draw a map, give it to Congress and wash their hands of it. That is not true. By doing that map and sending it to Congress, they have pulled the trigger and started a sequence of events that could be detrimental to the country.
Many argue that the District of Columbia should have a vote, as it is taxed without representation. This small piece of ground (38,000 acres) is not a state (see the Constitution). There have been several good attempts to incorporate the District of Columbia into Maryland. Maryland would then receive an additional House member and would already have its two senators. This brings up the real issue: The District of Columbia wants not only to have a voting representative but two senators as well. How else would it have equal representation? If this bill should become law, anyone could guarantee an immediate outcry for two additional senators. No place in America is more liberal, far left and different than the District of Columbia. I don't know of a Western Democrat who subscribes to the political philosophy of those who are and have been elected in the District of Columbia. On top of all that, count on numerous lawsuits. If the District of Columbia gets a vote, what will Guam, American Samoa and Puerto Rico do? Now the final question is what advantage is there to the state of Utah to receive a seat right now instead of patiently waiting for the next census?
The answer is probably nothing. I challenge anyone who is pushing this idea to show me one piece of legislation that would benefit Utah or the country, that one more vote from Utah would affect the outcome. I can't find one over the last 10 years.
So if we continue to push this ill-conceived idea, we plow new ground, challenge the Constitution, throw the Senate to the far left, possibly a very expensive cost to the state, and really with no political benefit.I would urge the Legislature not to be so excited about this idea and follow the normal procedure of the next census. Patience is a great virtue.
James V. Hansen is a retired Utah congressman.