A healthy majority of Utahns support a citizen initiative that would replace the Legislature’s partisan redrawing of U.S. House and legislative districts with a bipartisan, independent commission, a new UtahPolicy.com poll finds.
Our latest Dan Jones & Associates survey shows that 57 percent of Utahns support such a change in the every-10-year political process.
While 29 percent oppose such a change.
And 19 percent don’t know.
That is a rather high “don’t know” level, reflective of other demographic results of the question, as well.
It will be up to the bipartisan group pushing the initiative, Better Boundaries, to educate voters on what they say are the benefits of such an independent commission.
While those opposed to it – like GOP legislative leaders – must make their arguments against the petition.
If approved by voters next November, the new Redistricting Commission would consist of seven members, three picked by Republicans in the state House and Senate, three by minority Democrats in those bodies, and one by the governor.
The commission, following every federal Census, would draw the boundaries for U.S. House members from Utah and for the 104-member Legislature.
The commission wouldn’t be able to look at partisan voting, or where incumbents live in its redrawing.
It would have to follow logical geographic boundaries, like cities, towns and counties and relevant areas of interest, like urban, suburban and rural.
It would stop, Better Boundaries says, the gerrymandering done by the GOP-dominated Legislature in its current redistricting.
While in previous redistricting, GOP lawmakers have said they were fair, it is clear that especially in U.S. House redistricting Democrats have been harmed.
Just one example: While Salt Lake City could logically be the major part of one U.S. House seat, the Republican lawmakers have always split up the Democrat-majority Capitol city.
And Democrats in the city have been represented by GOP U.S. House members for years.
In any case, Jones’ new poll shows that even Republicans in Utah like the idea of the bipartisan, independent redistricting commission:
Republicans support the idea, 53-29 percent, with 19 percent “don’t know.”
Democrats really like the idea of getting partisan politics out of redistricting, 71-20 percent, with 9 percent “don’t know.”
Political independents, who don’t belong to any political party, also favor the initiative, 57-21 percent, with 21 percent “don’t know.”
The only group that doesn’t give a majority to the idea are those who self-identified to Jones that they are “very conservative” politically.
Among those folks, 45 percent support the commission, 30 percent oppose, and 24 percent “don’t know.”
The “somewhat conservatives” support it, 52-28 percent.
The “moderates” support it, 68-17 percent.
The “somewhat liberals” like it, 70-16 percent.
And the “very liberals” support it, 79-13 percent.
While all groups show a large “don’t know” factor among respondents, education seems to play a part.
Jones finds that among those who have only a high school degree, 55 percent like the commission, while 25 percent don’t like it, and 20 percent “don’t know.”
Among those who hold advanced college degrees – like PhDs, Masters, lawyers, and doctors – 61 percent like the commission idea, 28 percent oppose, and only 12 percent “don’t know.”
Jones polled 600 adults from Nov. 16-21. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
Editors Note: Republicans in the Legislature recently passed a law saying that the 15-member State School Board would be elected in a partisan manner – GOP and Democratic candidates.
That would push the school board into the petition process.
But a group sued, and a 3rd District judge recently ruled the new law unconstitutional. So, for now, State School Board members would not be nominated by a political party, and their districts would be nonpartisan.