The Republican-led Utah Legislature took away my vote in 2018. Chances are those lawmakers took away your vote as well.
Like a majority of Utahns, I voted in favor of all three propositions that were on the ballot. Rather than respecting our votes, however, these lawmakers opted to deny the will of the people and changed every ballot measure.
Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Elections belong to the people.” It has been disheartening to watch the Legislature shred this sentiment.
Voters approved medical marijuana (Proposition 2), yet, Republican lawmakers — in cahoots with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — quickly changed the law. Holding a special session, they passed the Medical Cannabis Act.
While Republicans often call out too much government and not enough personal freedom, here they acted in direct opposition to this mantra by demanding extra government controls and oversight. The new bill adds unnecessary government obstacles between patient and doctor and reduces the number of medical cannabis pharmacies, making the life-changing medicine more difficult to obtain.
Medicaid expansion (Proposition 3) passed by a large margin (nearly 7 percentage points). The result of this vote truly reflected Utah’s values of care and compassion for others. Most of the Republican legislators felt differently, however, and insisted they knew better. To prove this, they proposed a plan that would cover fewer people and cost the state more money — actually going out of their way to craft a bill spending more of our money while denying coverage to Utahns in need.
The replacement was dependent upon waivers approved by the federal government — again, something that they were certain would be obtained. Fortunately for all Utahns, and especially during a pandemic, most of the waivers were declined and Medicaid expansion became law. It seems as though those Republican lawmakers didn’t know better after all.
Better Boundaries (Proposition 4) called for an independent redistricting commission to draw fair and nonpartisan voting districts. But, as predicted, it was severely weakened. Rather than requiring commission members to adhere to strict rules while drawing district boundaries, the new legislation simply allows them to set their own.
Perhaps the most crucial change was removing the mandate that the Legislature vote on the commission-drawn maps and requiring justification if rejected. Without this mandate, the maps will be simply “advisory” maps, just as our votes turned out to be “advisory.” Votes that our lawmakers chose to reject.
As I collected signatures for Proposition 4, someone refusing to sign stated that we are a conservative state and that is how we want to keep it. I was surprised that this person was so willing to ignore democracy simply to keep policies in place and shockingly disappointed to watch our so-called representatives play out this thinking.
In 2018, there was near-record voter turnout for a midterm election. I spoke with several people who registered and voted because they wanted to make their voices heard on one or more of the propositions, but were not concerned with the candidates. Had those voters also voted for Democrats, rather than abstaining or voting for Republicans, perhaps we would have had a state Legislature that actually respected democracy and worked for the people.
Plato said, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” In this election season, let us participate in all areas of politics, research the issues, vote up and down the ballot, and choose candidates who respect our vote — not ones who take it away.
Charlotte Maloney, Millcreek, writes social and political commentary. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Utah and has worked in human resource management and as a librarian.