Utah Capitol 32

Utah GOP legislators and Gov. Gary Herbert repeal or drastically change Prop 4 – the independent redistricting law – at their political peril, a new UtahPolicy.com poll finds.

Y2 Analytics, which conducts the Utah Political Trends survey, finds that 63 percent of Utah voters don’t want Herbert and the Republican-controlled Legislature to change Prop 4 at all – not one sentence or comma.

Nineteen percent say lawmakers can make minor changes to clean up the voter initiative law, passed last November – while keeping the redistricting power with the independent commission.

But only 12 percent want the new law repealed, or for lawmakers to grab back the sole power to redraw their own legislative districts, and U.S. House districts, after each 10-year Census.

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Even those who told Y2 that they are “strong Republicans” don’t want the law changed to give legislators sole authority in redistricting – which is perhaps the greatest conflict of interest legislators deal with in their terms in office, as they redraw their own districts, choosing which voters can put them in office.

The poll shows 48 percent of “strong Republicans” don’t want Prop 4 changed at all by the Legislature, while 27 percent said minor changes can be made, but the independent redistricting commission must be kept intact.

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The survey results show the real political nightmare Republicans in the Utah House and Senate, and Herbert, face.

Before Prop 4 – which barely passed last November – Republican lawmakers, every 10 years, had complete control of redistricting, a power given to them by the Utah Constitution.

While other state Legislatures have adopted independent redistricting commissions – and such commissions have been upheld in court – Utah GOP state bosses have refused to give up their power.

Even a bill, sponsored by a GOP House member, that set up an independent commission ONLY for legislative districts – and thus took legislators out of their clear conflict of interest in picking their own voters – failed recently.

So, citizens, in a bipartisan effort titled Better Boundaries, got enough voter signatures to put Prop 4 on the November ballot, where it passed 50.3-49.7 percent, or by 6,944 votes statewide.

GOP legislative leaders, in complaining about problems with Prop 4, cite the close vote as a reason they should “fix” it.

After drastically changing Prop 2, medical marijuana, in a special session last December, and Prop 3, Medicaid expansion, in the general session, Republican leaders didn’t want to mess with Prop 4 immediately.

Both legislative reworks of the propositions’ original language have led to problems, that now must be repaired or altered.

They still have time to change Prop 4 in the 2020 general session, or even the 2021 general session, because it doesn’t really take effect until later in 2021 when redistricting must take place for the 2022 elections.

There are so many Republicans in the Utah Legislature, more than 2/3 majorities in both houses, that by and large previous legislative redistricting has been accepted by the minority Democrats, some of whom even voted for the GOP redistricting plan.

But it is in the U.S. House redistricting that Democrats and independent voters are really harmed – for Utah GOP bosses have drawn heavy Republican districts for Utah’s four U.S. House seats.

And done so to harm pockets of progressive, or Democratic, voters.

In his 2nd District, Rep. Chris Stewart has most of Democratic Salt Lake City, which votes heavily against him in every election. Other GOP parts of the 2ndDistrict, however, give Stewart such huge numbers that he has won re-election easily.

But an independent redistricting commission could make Salt Lake City home base for one U.S. House seat, and basically ensure one Democratic U.S. House member from Utah.

Current Prop 4 language hamstrings GOP legislators and a Republican governor from gerrymandering U.S. House seats again. And that is what Herbert and Republican bosses face in the new Y2 results – a citizenry that doesn’t want such gerrymandering repeated in 2021.