A Utah ballot initiative pitched as a remedy for partisan gerrymandering is back on top, buoyed by additional ballots from Salt Lake County.
Proposition 4, which would create an independent redistricting commission, has been up and down since Election Day, as officials have continued adding up votes. At Tuesday’s end, the initiative was trailing by about 900 votes, out of about 909,000 cast.
Another batch of ballots from Salt Lake County — where the proposition has done well — came in Wednesday evening and gave the measure its lead back. The initiative is now ahead by 2,250 votes, netting support from about 50.12 percent of roughly 933,000 ballots tabulated.
Under the proposition, an independent commission would redraw Utah’s voting districts every decade. The Legislature would then be free to accept or reject the panel’s recommended map.
But state Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, has said a narrow victory for Prop 4 would amount to an effective defeat. Without a clear mandate from voters, lawmakers would feel comfortable disregarding the map drawn by the commission and designing their own boundaries instead, said Okerlund, a vociferous opponent of the initiative.
A representative of Better Boundaries, the group behind Prop 4, said he believes the count does send a clear message.
“From our perspective nearly half a million voters have voiced they would like transparency and accountability in how districts are drawn,” Jeff Wright, the campaign’s co-chairman, said in a prepared statement. “Should Proposition 4 win, we would hope the legislature would respect the will of voters.”
Wright expressed cautious optimism that the initiative would prevail in the end.
Former congressional candidate Shireen Ghorbani, who just lost her Democratic bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, was volunteering Wednesday night at a phone bank for Better Boundaries, the group behind Prop 4. The volunteers are encouraging voters to make sure their ballots have been counted, she said.
Ghorbani said she thinks the state's congressional districts would look different if they were designed by an independent panel rather than by politicians.
“I think there’s really a question of if we want our districts to be competitive and representative,” said Ghorbani, who ran in Utah’s 2nd District, where Salt Lake City’s mostly liberal voters are lumped in with Republicans from Davis County to St. George. “I think mine was neither of those things.”
The vote tally will continue to change in coming days as officials keep adding up ballots.