No special session for redrawing voting districts
There will be no special session to redraw the boundaries in Cedar Hills to fix a long-standing mistake by the Utah County Clerk's Office.
But supporters of Rep. Craig Frank are now arguing that he really might live inside his district and never should have been removed from office.
"The bottom line is: There's no special session and we're moving tentatively forward" with the special election to replace Frank, said Utah County Republican Party Chairman Taylor Oldroyd.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, an attorney who is providing legal advice to Frank, said information he has uncovered from the hearings and report from the 2001 redistricting committee calls into question whether legislators actually intended all of Cedar Hills, including Frank's residence, to be in House District 57.
"It appears the maps may be wrong," Valentine said. "The interesting question is: Is Representative Frank's property in an area that was in Cedar Hills' boundary at the time the committee adopted the map, because the text says [the line] is the Cedar Hills boundary."
The maps attached to the act setting the boundaries do not include Frank's neighborhood.
When the Legislature was drawing the district maps, Cedar Hills was in the midst of annexing the land where Frank later built his home. If that annexation was completed by the time the maps were adopted, then the boundary it could be argued would have included Frank's home, Valentine said. If he lived in the district the whole time, then he should continue to serve in the House. Frank lives in Valentine's Senate district.
Valentine has asked the county party to postpone its vote on who should replace Frank to allow more time to gather information about the maps.
The party's steering committee will have an emergency meeting on Saturday to hear the evidence from Frank and his backers and decide how to proceed.
Meantime, borrowing a slogan from the American Revolution, Rep. John Dougall is calling for "no taxation without representation" for about 3,000 Cedar Hills residents who he says have had their votes stolen because of the clerk's errant map.
Dougall, R-Highland, has opened a bill file that would exempt the Cedar Hills residents from state income tax until they get a chance to elect their lawmakers likely a period of two years unless legislators decide to fix the district boundaries first.
"If they don't get the opportunity to have a vote, why should they pay taxes? That was kind of the starting of our country," Dougall said Thursday.
Because of a flawed county map, a number of voters in Cedar Hills have since 2002 been voting in the wrong state House, Senate and U.S. congressional districts.
Frank caught the error last week and alerted officials, triggering his automatic ouster from the Legislature.
Dougall, who suddenly represents the roughly 3,000 Cedar Hills residents, said those people didn't vote for him and have effectively lost their chance to choose their state legislators. About 600 of those residents voted incorrectly in the last election.
He supports simply adjusting the boundaries to what residents and the county clerk believed they had been for years and allowing Frank to run again for the seat he was elected to last November.
With the governor's decision not to call a special session, Frank's options to hold onto his seat are limited.
If he could persuade the party to postpone replacing him, he could attempt to get the Legislature to change the boundaries when it meets in its general session, beginning Jan. 24. Or he could go to court to contest the boundaries.
If the boundaries are changed, legislative attorneys have said it is a murky legal question as to whether Frank would meet the constitutional requirement that he live in his district for six months before seeking office.
Meantime, Democrats in Utah County said they won't contest the GOP delegates selecting Frank's replacement.
The party had considered fighting the issue, arguing that Frank hadn't been sworn in and the eligible candidate on the November ballot who got the most votes Democrat Jim Crimson should take the seat.
Legally, however, Frank took office Jan. 1 and the deadline to contest the election was Dec. 27.
"I doubt that the courts would choose an option that doesn't exist in the code over the option of legislative vacancy and selection by party delegates, even though I think the latter doesn't apply here," said Utah County Democratic Party Chairman Richard Davis. "The provision of decertifying an ineligible candidate at any point before they are sworn in should be in the code, but it isn't."
Read the report
To read the 2001 redistricting committee's report, go to: http://le.utah.gov/lrgc/briefingpapers/redistricting.pdf
To read the redistricting bill, go to: http://le.utah.gov/~2001S2/bills/hbillenr/hb2001.htm