Utah Legislature sued over allegedly unconstitutional gerrymandering
SALT LAKE CITY — Most Americans dislike gerrymandering and want the Supreme Court to fix it. In Utah, Republican lawmakers ignored political maps recommended by an independent commission created by voters and drew their own instead. A Utah group has now filed a lawsuit to stop the gerrymandering.
Katie Wright with Better Boundaries joined KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic to explain why her group is financially supporting plaintiffs, the League of Women Voters of Utah, and Mormon Women for Ethical Government, who are asking the court to throw out Utah’s newest congressional maps.
What is gerrymandering?
Manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency so as to favor one party or class.
A bipartisan poll conducted by Democratic researcher Celinda Lake and Republican analyst Ashlee Rich Stephenson found that 71% of Americans would like the Supreme Court to define a standard that ends extreme partisan gerrymandering.
Support cuts across party lines. 80% of Democrats, 68% of independents, and 65% of Republicans would back action by the court.
“When you have extreme partisanship, our elections aren’t competitive. The people who are elected sit well on one side of the political spectrum, and we see this outcome, which is nothing gets done,” Wright said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re blue, red or in-between.”
Utah voters barely approved the Independent Redistricting Commission in 2018 when they passed Proposition 4, which Better Boundaries backed.
In 2020, the Legislature allowed the commission to recommend maps but lawmakers would still have the final say.
In November, the Legislature drew their own maps while ignoring the recommendations of the commission, splitting Salt Lake County, the state’s most populous area, into four congressional districts and setting the political boundaries for the next decade, according to Deseret News.
Politicians win and communities lose with gerrymandering
Wright said politicians are drawing maps to favor themselves and end up cutting up communities that should be kept whole.
“Right now we have a system where elected officials give themselves job-protection programs by drawing maps that make it very, very easy for them to get elected over and over again,” she said.
Dave pointed out that balancing all political affiliations in a specific district is difficult.
“The gerrymandering process, of course, it exists,” he said. “It exists from the Republican side and the Democratic side. The fact is, just because you don’t like my gerrymander, doesn’t mean your gerrymander is any less gerrymandered — if that makes sense.”
Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.