SALT LAKE CITY — Former Rep. Craig Frank, R-Cedar Hills, said he found out Friday he didn't legally represent District 57 when he was fooling around on a new House website.
Frank said he clicked on a feature that allows users to find out who their state lawmaker is by typing in their address. "I clicked on that for fun, to look for myself," he said. "To my surprise, my picture didn't come up."
Instead, he discovered was that he and his family actually had moved out of District 57 two years ago, making him ineligible to serve and leaving residents of the Cedar Hills area without a representative.
That's because two district precincts, including the one that Frank moved into on Jan. 1, 2009, are in District 57 according to the Utah County clerk's office. But the state officially puts the precincts in House District 27, represented by Rep. John Dougall, R- American Fork.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said Monday the state Constitution "is very clear on this point so I need to announce we have an immediate vacancy in District 57." She called Frank "an honorable, an ethical and honest person" for alerting legislative staff.
Lockhart said legislative attorneys have assured her there is "plenty of legal precedent" showing that the votes Frank cast after his move still count.
The vacancy will be filled by Utah County GOP delegates in the district, Lockhart said, hopefully before the 2011 Legislature begins Jan. 24.
But unless the district boundaries are redrawn, residents of the two precincts won't participate. That leaves the 2,500 people there "somewhat disenfranchised," Lockhart said, represented by a lawmaker who didn't appear on their ballots.
She acknowledged talking with members of Gov. Gary Herbert's staff about calling a special session of the Legislature to redraw the boundaries.
Herbert spokeswoman Ally Isom said the governor is "conferring right now with his attorneys and discussing possible options" but hasn't made a decision yet.
Isom said legislative leaders have indicated they'd prefer the session be held on Jan. 19, when lawmakers are holding pre-session budget meetings.
Frank, a key supporter of Lockhart's successful bid last November to unseat former House Speaker Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, was re-elected in November.2 comments on this story
"I wish it were different," he said, adding he was looking forward to a new two-year term. Frank was appointed to the Legislature in 2003 to fill a vacancy.
Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chairman Weston Clark said the suggestion of a special session shows GOP leaders "will do anything to protect their own. … It is disheartening to see them redrawing political boundaries on a whim and for political gain."
Lawmakers are already preparing to redrawn district boundaries for legislative and congressional seats later this year based on the new census numbers. Any change made in a special session would be reconsidered then.