SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah residents might have the chance to vote to form an independent redistricting commission that would redraw congressional and legislative district boundaries after the 2020 Census.
A group called Utahns for Responsive Government is working to collect the more than 100,000 signatures required to put the initiative on the state’s 2018 ballot.
“I strongly believe that the redistricting process (the determination of political boundaries), badly needs to be improved, and that politicians should not be choosing their voters,” said Ralph Becker, a former Salt Lake City mayor who is a member of the group.
The new drive is called the “Better Boundaries” initiative. It aims at taking power away from politicians and giving it to a neutral commission, citing gerrymandering as the reason Republicans hold all of Utah’s six seats in Congress.
Gerrymandering refers to drawing districts for elected offices in a way that ensures one political party has the advantage in as many races as possible. Utah lawmakers currently have control over setting boundaries for legislative and congressional districts, a process that takes place every 10 years after the national census is complete.
Democrats claimed the last redrawing of congressional districts broke up Salt Lake County — where most Democrats in the state live — so that slices of it were included in each of the state’s four U.S. House districts, diluting Democratic strength to make it more difficult for the minority party to capture any seat.
Initiative leaders released a joint statement, saying, “As Utahns continue looking for ways to improve government … Voters across the political spectrum agree that the people should choose their politicians, and not the other way around.”
The group is still working with attorneys and others on exactly how such an independent commission would work and who would serve on it, Becker said.
“Our communities will be best served when legislative and congressional districts are drawn by a neutral commission rather than by people who will campaign in those districts,” the group stated.