Utah is considered one of the most gerrymandered states in the country, which means that the fundamental notion of “one person, one vote” is diminished in this state. Fundamental to the notion of a democracy is that legislators are representatives of the people, but this cannot happen when legislative districts are drawn to favor incumbents or one political party over another.
Many states have created citizen advisory groups to assist their legislatures in redistricting in hopes of increasing fairness to all parties. Utah has opted not to do that, which is antithetical to the democratic process. Legislators should welcome the input from an independent body due to the unavoidable conflict of interest between creating fair districts and enhancing their party’s political power and their own political future.
There, AARP Utah is proud to be part of the Utah Citizens Counsel (UCC) to promote a citizens’ commission to draw maps, seek citizen input, and share the results with the legislature. Specifically, two of AARP Utah’s Executive Council members--Dr. Dana Wilson and Nancy McCormick—work directly with the UCC to encourage citizen participation in the redistricting process.
AARP Utah agrees with the UCC that the process should be nonpartisan, fair and transparent to the public and not be tied to partisan, self-serving interests. The committee will provide an independent forum for public discussion and involvement.
Redistricting plans should be drawn in a manner that balances the voting power of Utah’s rural and urban residents, and reflects common interests and the diversity of the populace, especially racial and ethnic diversity. Citizens should choose their representatives rather than allow representatives to choose their voters.
AARP Utah supports the UCC goals of considering district boundaries that accomplish the following:
- Keep municipalities intact
- Make the process open and transparent
- Respect existing city and county boundaries
- Limit the control of the process by individuals with obvious conflicts of interest
- Comply with federal and state constitutions and the Voting Rights Act
- Equalize population to the greatest extent possible
- Keep each district contiguous
- Keep districts reasonably compact
- Identify communities of common interest
- Promote meaningful competition between political parties rather than single-party districts
The UCC will hold online meetings throughout the summer to provide a forum for explanation of the redistricting process as well as public comment and questions.
Find more information about the Utahns for Ethical Government online. www.utahnsforethicalgovernment.org.