Reading these recent articles over Utah's legislators' anguish in coming up with a "fair" redistricting map makes me think of an old Marine Corps saying -- "pole vaulting over ant hills."
Those of you that have read me before are familiar with two favorite sayings, KISS (Keep It Simple & Short) and things should be as simple as they can be but not simpler (A Einstein).
I believe should be the guiding principle here in this map drawing exercise. Lets also distinguish between redistricting and reapportionment. The first is just redrawing lines on a map, the second deals solely with keeping, or enhancing, political power. Everyone knows this is about the second, not the first definition.
If our majority members of the Legislature really felt that they were serving to provide for the general welfare and promote the public good, this should be a five-minute drill. I admit I'm not that familiar with federal and state laws that might deal with considerations and restrictions on this process but they can be changed if my proposal is accepted. Let's start with the U.S. Constitution.
The original number of people (and this had a different definition than it does now) a representative was to represent would be no more than 30,000. The Constitution also made no comment concerning how these representatives were to be chosen other than the same way as those chosen for the state's most numerous body of the legislature. Accordingly, two could be from the same block.
Also, the Constitution made no distinction about being "fair." This whole concept is an updated political feel good saying in regard to making the population feel like they have a voice and are being heard. For instance, after a census is completed, we might know how many total people there are in a given area but do we really know of those how many are eligible voters? how many are voters? How many are registered voters? How many people are illegally here and how many are not citizens but here legally? It's a moving target.
Now, using the Constitution, why don't we use a similar approach in this exercise. Just as two senators are allocated to each state, regardless of population, and the states are allocated representatives based on the census every 10 years, wouldn't it be easy to use our counties and cities at the state level to allocate these legislators?
Utah has 29 senators and 75 representatives. This is not set in stone. Is it coincidence or divine inspiration that Utah also has 29 counties? Why don't we just have one senator per county? I can hear the argument of Mormon vs. non-Mormon and Democratic vs Republican and other political bodies. My reply would be -- do we trust the people? The "people" of Utah came through with flying colors over the recent GRAMA shenanigans of the last legislature, and a few years ago did the same over the school voucher fiasco. We trust the people or we don't.
With at least one representative per county (as with one per state at the federal level), we now have 46 to divide up, or allocate, between the most populated counties. Just for fun, let's keep a state representative with the original 30,000 population. This gives Iron, Box Elder, and Tooele counties two state representatives.
Now you have 43 remaining seats between the six largest counties in the state, those being Salt Lake (1 million), Utah (516,000), Davis (306,000), Weber (231,000), Washington ( 138,000), and Cache (112,000). I would also, surprise, surprise, keep cities intact with their representation. For instance, if a county has two seats, one seat for the largest city and the other seat for the rest of the county. When legislators are designated, its clear and descriptive -- Senator Shupe, Weber County and Representatives Smith (Ogden City) and Jones (Weber County).
As for the U.S. House seats, I also believe this should be based on whole counties. Again, the "equal" population and representation requirement is a false positive. Counties should be next to each other and if the way of travel is still mainly interstate highways and state roads, these should be used to group these four districts. The rural vs urban fair share statements are baloney. All this means is that whatever lobbying group makes the largest contribution to the candidate, their way to vote will determine which interests prevail.
I believe also that some people would be more inclined to be politically active, if not just interested, if they had a easier, clearer understanding of how our political subdivisions were determined.
Politics is about people and making their lives better. It should be based on and provide results that come from experience and instinct rather than computer projections and simulations.
I would state that those in the majority party in this state think the smartest thing a voter can do is to vote for them. But once they take office, they believe that they know what's best for the voter and the voter should never question the legislator's actions, intentions, or explanations. That is not the American way.
There are also some who believe those in the minority in the larger cities and counties would not be able to have their voice heard over the moral or social issues of the day. It's a valid concern. However, I would offer that those neighbors that are not able to persuade their neighbors to accept the same values as themselves will find it more difficult to get their legislators to do this social engineering and less and less willing to make laws enforcing social behavior. Trust the people.
So, if California can have two senators for 37 million people and 703,000 people for each of their 53 representatives and Wyoming have two senators and one representative for their 564,000 people, Utah should be able to survive with the above reapportionment. Just think, every 10 years we need only shift one or two house seats around instead of redrawing the whole state.
Now that this is settled, let's move on to something important, like combining three counties to have only 26 counties in the state and renaming them with the 26 letters of the alphabet, A through Z. Simple, right?
Thompson lives in Ogden.