A recent Salt Lake Tribune/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows that, by a 61 percent to 22 percent margin, Utah voters favor having an independent commission redraw political boundaries to undo the partisan practice of gerrymandering.
Poor fools. They just don’t know what’s good for them. So, in a paternalistic way, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is taking steps to protect them from themselves.
Reyes is one of 16 state attorneys general who have signed an amicus, or friend of the court, brief supporting partisan gerrymandering in Gill vs. Whitford, a lawsuit challenging the way the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature drew political boundaries in 2011.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case next month.
The brief signed by the attorneys general — all Republicans — argues basically that partisan gerrymandering is not unconstitutional.
Reyes has been called out by the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah, which said in a news release last week that “It is unfortunate that Reyes has decided to defend partisan politics, rather than standing up to protect voters.”
Hey, he’s just trying to protect Utahns from eventually having a congressional and legislative redistricting system that is fair and balanced and doesn’t give an unfair advantage to the GOP.
After all, we’re a Republican state and, well, Reyes is a Republican.
The Supreme Court has held that drawing legislative and congressional boundaries along racial lines is unconstitutional, but has not addressed the constitutionality of drawing such boundaries to protect partisan interests.
The GOP-dominated Utah Legislature has come under scrutiny in the past for the way it has shaped legislative and congressional districts, with critics calling its practices blatant gerrymandering to ensure as many Republican victories as possible.
The Legislature twice drastically changed the district boundaries of then-Rep. Jim Matheson, at the time the state’s lone Democratic congressman, only to see him continue to win re-election. After the boundary change in 2011, however, Matheson barely prevailed in 2012 and decided not to seek another term in 2014.
Now, Republicans hold all five Utah seats in Congress (a sixth is vacant).
So if finally worked.
Critics also point to the fact that Republicans get about 64 percent of the vote in legislative elections but have more than 80 percent of the seats on Utah’s Capitol Hill.
The group Better Boundaries is gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would create an independent commission to advise the Legislature on drawing future legislative and congressional districts.
The two Mike Lees • Utah Sen. Mike Lee voted last week against the $15.25 billion Hurricane Harvey relief bill because it included raising the federal borrowing limit to keep the government going into December.
Merging funding programs like that to keep the government going is disgraceful, the Utah Republican says.
It’s an abomination.
Lee said such legislation should be decided on its own, without tying it to keeping the federal government financed.
Except when Lee wants to do it.
This is the same Mike Lee who tied a measure to keep funding the federal government to a demand that Obamacare be repealed.
Lee and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, two of the most stalwart conservative Republicans in the Senate, joined together to block a funding extension for the government unless it defunded Obamacare, the bane of tea party zealots.
Largely because of the actions of Lee and Cruz, the government was shut down for more than two weeks in 2013, causing havoc and financial losses in many areas, including Utah’s tourism industry, and a backlash against Lee that had some prominent Republicans looking for someone to run against him in the 2016 GOP primary.
Cruz, Lee’s compatriot in the blockade that led to the shutdown four years ago, voted for the spending extension proposal this year even though it was tied to the hurricane-relief bill. Of course, it was Cruz’s state of Texas that was most devastated by Harvey and will be the main beneficiary of the relief. So ideology, for him, took a back seat this time.
Funny how that works.