I read the October 25 Salt Lake Tribune article titled “Former Congressman Rob Bishop suddenly resigns from Independent Redistricting Commission” and I immediately thought, Here we go again.
As if it were a gambit in a game of chess, Republicans have sacrificed Bishop — in this case a former member of Congress and a former speaker of the Utah House — having him cry that the commission was “metro-centric” and was gerrymandering the redistricting process to favor Utah’s metro population. That opened the door for the current speaker of the House to set the table for overruling the redistricting commission by stating that he shares Bishop’s frustrations.
First, 75% of Utah’s population would be considered metro. Based on that, three of the four congressional districts should be metro-centric. But over the last several decades the Republican-led Utah Legislature has gerrymandered the districts so that the metro voters were evenly divided throughout the four districts in an attempt to dilute the metro vote as much as possible.
The Independent Redistricting Commission was supposed to be non-partisan, yet Bishop infers that because Utah voters elected a Republican governor and two Republican U.S. senators the state should also have four Republican congressional seats. So much for non-partisan.
If Bishop’s logic was the case in all 50 states it would certainly change things in Washington, D.C. But not necessarily the way he would like. Thirty-three states have the trifecta of governor and two U.S senators from the same party. Sixteen of those states have all Democrat, 17 all Republican.
I ran the numbers comparing the current congressional representation of those 33 states and what the change would be if you gerrymandered those states to guarantee that all congressional representatives went to the party of the trifecta holder.
The current party breakdown of Congress is: 224 Democrats and 211 Republicans. Using Bishop’s trifecta logic the make-up would be; 239 Democrats and 196 Republicans, with Republicans losing 15 seats overall.
Bishop’s trifecta logic would help Republicans in Utah because Republicans would get 100% of the representation with only about 50% of the voters being registered Republicans, but it would hurt urban and non-Republican voters in Utah.
It is hard to say exactly how many Democratic or Republican voters there are in Utah. This is because the Democratic party in Utah does not require voters to be registered as Democrats to vote in Democratic primaries. Because of this, many Democrats likely do not divulge their party affinity, or they may even register as a Republican so they can vote in either party’s primary.
According to vote.utah.gov party breakdown of active voters are as follows; Republican 51%, unaffiliated 29%, Democrat 15% and combined other parties 5%. If you weighed representation along voter’s party affiliation you would expect two or three seats to be Republican and the balance Democratic or another party. Drawing districts based on registered party affiliation would clearly be gerrymandering, and inappropriate.
Salk Lake County has more than enough voters to be a congressional district by itself, and it should be.
It is my opinion, we should all vote for the person, their values, and stances on issues important to the voter. Voting based solely on party affiliation is the lazy way to vote. You may be voting for someone who does not represent your values, even though you may feel their party does.
Redistricting should be based on commonality of areas such as community, city or county boundaries as much as possible. Sticking urban with rural will do nothing but weaken the voice of one, or both. By making districts all urban or all rural as best you can, will give each of those voting groups a voice in Congress. The same goes for Utah House and Senate districts as well.
F. Jay Seegmiller, Sandy, is a former Utah legislator, a retired railroad conductor and a lifelong resident of Salt Lake County.