Guest opinion: Why I support an independent redistricting commission

By A. Scott Anderson
For the Deseret News

I have always been proud that Utah leads our nation in many ways. In November, Utah voters will have a chance to lead again — by voting for Proposition 4, or the Better Boundaries initiative, which will create a fair system for drawing electoral boundaries in our state.

I encourage all Utahns to vote yes on Proposition 4.

By voting yes on Proposition 4, we can protect Utah from the harmful effects of gerrymandering — the practice of drawing electoral boundaries to benefit incumbents, not voters.

President Ronald Reagan called gerrymandering “anti-democratic” and “a national scandal” because he knew how destructive the practice was to our democracy.

Proposition 4 establishes a reasonable process for addressing the risk of gerrymandering. It will create an independent redistricting commission that will take a first crack at drawing our political boundaries. Commissioners will be appointed by the governor and state legislative leadership. To promote impartiality, the commissioners can’t be elected officials, lobbyists, candidates for office or others with a personal interest in the outcome. When drawing the maps, the commission must adhere to commonsense standards. Those standards include keeping communities of interest together and not using incumbent addresses and partisan data.

As required by our Utah Constitution, the Legislature will have the final say, with the authority to reject the commission’s Propositionosed maps. But if the Legislature chooses to reject those maps, it must draw new maps in compliance with the new standards. The result will be a fairer and more transparent process.

Some people claim that Utah doesn’t have a history of gerrymandering. I choose not to engage in that debate, because to me the question of what happened in the past shouldn’t control what happens in the future. And I believe that Proposition 4 is the right path forward for Utah.

We have no way of knowing who will be in office in 2021, when the next redistricting cycle takes place. We hope that those individuals will not be the kind of people who think it’s acceptable for politicians to manipulate the system for their own personal gain at the expense of the communities they are charged to represent.

But hoping is not enough. Proposition 4 gives us an opportunity to establish a workable system that will yield fair results no matter who happens to be in office in 2021 and all the years after that.

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I recognize that some legislative leaders are concerned that Proposition 4 goes too far and encroaches on their constitutional redistricting authority. Like any law, the Legislature has the authority to improve the Proposition 4 language in a future session. But I hope they will retain the spirit of Proposition 4, recognizing that citizens want a meaningful role for an independent redistricting commission.

Utahns have always been guided by commonsense solutions. Proposition 4 presents an opportunity to adopt a reasonable approach to protecting our elections from the harmful effects of gerrymandering. It will promote accountability, responsibility and good government.

Let’s follow the advice of Ronald Reagan and lead our nation by putting an end to gerrymandering in Utah. I encourage all Utahns to vote yes on Proposition 4.