Niederhauser criticizes Better Boundaries redistricting initiative

Utah Senate Pres. Wayne Niederhauser says the redistricting initiative that will be on the ballot in November is really an attempt by Salt Lake City Democrats to pack a congressional district with Democratic voters.  

Here is his statement, posted on the Senate Site:

Recently, a Mr. David R. Zangrilli wrote a brash letter to the editor in the Salt Lake Tribune in which he claims the Legislature should not be allowed redistricting authority because, “Legislators draw their districts so that they cannot be voted out.”

Additionally, he asserted, “Niederhauser will not be in the Senate for the next session solely because he chose not to run again. Otherwise, he could have been a senator for life!” Lastly, he expresses his support of the Better Boundaries Initiative claiming it will make our elections more “fair and free.”

These arguments range from misleading to simply false. As the former Democrat Senator Pat Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Here are the facts:

Not only should Legislators be allowed to redistrict, the founders of Utah thought it was important to give this authority exclusively to the Legislature and no other entity. This anchors the entire process in the voice of the people to whom we as legislators are accountable.

The thought that “legislators draw their districts so that they cannot be voted out” is simply mathematically inaccurate. Since 1970 the average time in office for a Utah legislator is less than seven years. With redistricting occurring only once every ten years, how could legislators possibly be drawing districts that are ensuring they stay in office?

Mr. Zangrilli is correct that I am not running for re-election this fall. However, because I was in office before and after the last redistricting process and my Senate district is one of the more competitive districts in the state, it is a great example of how we followed appropriate redistricting standards despite the political cost.

I barely won my first general election in 2006, but in 2010 with name recognition and incumbency I was reelected with nearly 68% of the vote. Then redistricting happened in 2011. Due to the mathematical realities of my district’s population growth rate, I actually lost Republican representation. This is evidenced by the 2014 elections results – with even more name recognition, more incumbency, and a higher public profile from leadership positions, I received just over 60% of the general election vote. If I was trying to help myself become a “senator for life” I did a terrible job at it.

Finally, the “Better Boundaries Initiative” is nothing more than a cleverly disguised partisan ploy to silence the voice of the people of Utah as represented by the Legislature. It unconstitutionally gives authority over redistricting to unelected individuals and the courts. Make no mistake about it, the backers of this initiative are not seeking to create a transparent, fair, and constitutionally sound redistricting process – we already have that. They are seeking to pack what is now a competitive congressional district with Democrat voters to create a single, safe, and solidly Democrat congressional district around Salt Lake City.

Appropriately named by its Salt Lake City Democrat supporters, the “Better Boundaries Initiative,” begs the question: better boundaries for whom? Themselves.

–Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser