After waiting for the final results of Proposition 4 — the ballot initiative to end gerrymandering in Utah — I found myself strolling through Boston Commons while traveling for work, ironically being in Massachusetts, the birthplace of gerrymandering.
It struck me how Utah differs from Massachusetts on just about every political issue except one: gerrymandering. Over the years, the dominant parties in both states have used their supermajority status to control the drawing of legislative districts, with limited checks — that is, until now. Utah voters were heard through Proposition 4, and, in a statewide election, a majority of Utahns voted to pass Proposition 4 to end gerrymandering.
As a Republican and co-chairman of the Proposition 4 initiative, I believe no matter how district maps are drawn, conservative policies will win out in Utah. I just want those policies to win on a level playing field. There are countless reasons I joined this effort as a volunteer more than 18 months ago, including how important it was for Utah to show other “one-party” states there is a better and more reasonable way to redistrict. With four other states passing similar redistricting measures this year, I am confident many more will join before the next redistricting process, and I am thrilled Utah will show them the way.
The mere perception of gerrymandering divides our communities both literally and figuratively, and as I’ve learned from countless hours discussing and presenting this issue, people simply want to remove an obvious conflict of interest and ensure they can elect a representative who is truly accountable to their community.
Proposition 4 is in no way a radical idea. Eighteen other states, with five more this year, have adopted some version of redistricting reform. The framers of Proposition 4 had the good fortune to learn from those examples and decide what made the most sense for Utah. The result is a well-reasoned law that strikes the right balance between leaving the Legislature in charge of the redistricting process and imposing new sensible standards to significantly reduce gerrymandering.
I am absolutely certain there is something in this initiative for everyone. The GOP-led Legislature will be free of the barrage of gerrymandering claims and still pass fiscally conservative policies like balanced budgets, competitive taxes and smart regulation that make Utah such a fabulous place to live and work; Democrats will not feel so marginalized, and moderates may get closer to their hope of a less polarized government.4 comments on this story
I look forward to working with the Legislature leading up to the 2020 census and beyond, and I hope all citizens and elected officials will see the value in addressing the way we redistrict. The excuse that gerrymandering has been happening for more than 200 years and both parties do it is no longer acceptable. Our recent election was the first step in realizing this chance to be on the right side of history. Utah’s role will be extremely important in influencing the remaining states to adopt redistricting reform. In the meantime, I am excited for the positive effect Proposition 4 will have on all of Utah’s communities as a greater preservation of our representative democracy.