Salt Lake City, Utah- (ABC4 Utah) – Changes could be coming to the way congressional districts are drawn up in Utah, if a new ballot initiative is successful.
The local group, Better Boundaries wants to create an independent redistricting commission. Organizers want voters to decide, and Thursday, they got the ball rolling.
Utah’s congressional districts are drawn up by the state legislature.
Some say it’s a flawed process that leads to politicians choosing their voters, instead of voters choosing their politicians.
“There is a natural and inherent conflict of interest. That those legislators look out for protecting their seats, and for protecting their party affiliation,” said Ralph Becker.
Becker, a democrat and Jeff Wright, a republican are co-chairing Better Boundaries.
The group has officially started the ballot initiative process, asking voters to approve a seven person, independent redistricting commission.
Legislative leadership from the majority and minority parties would evenly appoint six commission members. Two of them would be unaffiliated.
The governor would appoint the commission chair.
“This is a no-brainer, bipartisan issue, because democrats have abused this, republicans have abused this nationally, and locally. I think we want a better process, a fairer process, a more transparent process,” said Wright.
The initiative also creates a clear set of standards the commission would be bound by when drawing federal, state and school board boundaries.
The commission’s recommendation would then go to the state legislature for an up and down vote.
“This creates one more check and balance, this creates accountability,” Wright said.
If successful, the initiative will show up on the ballot for the General Election in November, 2018. Two other ballot initiatives are also in the works. One, would raise taxes to fund public education. The other, would legalize medical marijuana.
The Office of Speaker Greg Hughes is weighing in. The following statement is from Chief of Staff Greg Hartley:
“Legislators are elected by the citizens of this state to perform specific duties as detailed in the Utah Constitution and redistricting is a fundamental duty of the legislature. The purpose of this process is to have an open and public discussion, gather input and come to a consensus based on information and research through a bipartisan committee that puts recommendations before the entire legislative body. An initiative to create an advisory committee does not override or bypass the Constitution simply because some may not like the outcome.”