Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering is when politicians manipulate the boundaries of districts in the state to give themselves an electoral advantage, deciding whom to include or exclude. It means that the officials are choosing their voters instead of the voters choosing their officials.

Gerrymandering is contrary to the spirit of republican democracy, and a contemptible practice regardless of which party or politician engages in it.

Independent redistricting and the legislature

The Utah Constitution gives the state legislature the power to divide the state into electoral districts, but it doesn't specify how it's to be done or who gets to participate in the process. I supported Prop 4 in 2018, which created an independent commission to create maps and recommend them to the legislature for ratification.

I participated in the redistricting process in 2021. I spent quite a few hours drawing my own district maps to submit to the legislature as part of public input. I also remotely attended several meetings of the independent commission and the legislature's own redistricting committee.

The members of the independent commission followed the law diligently and recommended a set of fair and sensible maps. They sought to keep cities and communities of interest in the same district where possible, and incorporated lots of public feedback into their product.

Then, the legislators' separate redistricting committee entirely ignored the independent commission's work. Behind closed doors they drew their own maps with no public input and revealed them just days before holding a vote to adopt them. These maps gerrymandered the state to lock in safe majorities for the incumbent party. Over the fierce objection of many citizens, myself included, the legislature adopted its own maps and enshrined the gerrymander into law for the next decade.

The current representative of our district sat on the legislative committee and supported the gerrymander, placing partisan interest above fair play and the voice of the people. This was a great disappointment to me, and one motivation for me to run to represent this district.

Looking forward with a solution

I want to restore trust in the redistricting process by constraining how the legislature conducts its constitutional duty to divide the state into districts.

Computers can be used to draw thousands of variations of district maps that meet the statutory requirements. The independent commission's experts did this to create reference maps that the human-drawn maps could be compared to.

These thousands of maps were used to give a statistical sense of how fair a map might be. If only a tiny number of these generated maps produced districts that were all dominated by a single party, then a human-drawn map that did the same would be atypical, and thus unfair.

This gives us a good way to measure the fairness of a map, and thus an objective standard to use going forward.

If elected, I will seek to amend the redistricting statute to require any map adopted by the legislature to meet this statistical sense of partisan fairness, by comparing it to a large set of computer-generated maps produced by neutral experts. The map may be adopted if its outcome resembles the majority of those maps, but shall not be enacted if it's a statistical outlier.

This still respects the constitutional power of the legislature to draw maps if it likes, or to delegate that to others and merely to ratify their recommendations. But it limits the potential for abuse of the process to create blatant gerrymanders.