A new ballot initiative is in the works to address redistricting in Utah. The proposal would create an independent commission to advise the legislature on the process.
The project is called Better Boundaries. According to information allegedly leaked to the website UtahPolicy.com, it is being organized by the bipartisan group Utahns for Responsive Government. That group includes former Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Jeff Wright, who worked on Jon Huntsman Jr.’s 2012 presidential bid.
The proposal would create a seven-person commission to advise Utah legislators when they redraw district boundaries after the next Census in 2020.
The commission would include equal numbers of Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated members. Lawmakers in the House and Senate, and the Governor would appoint the commission members.
But changing district boundaries in Utah is difficult. Republican State Representative Merrill Nelson knows how hard it can be to amend current political boundaries when they benefit sitting legislators.
"There’s natural resistance to it because of the personal conflict of interest," Nelson says.
Nelson sponsored legislation similar to what Better Boundaries is setting out to do during the 2017 legislative session. His resolution passed in the House but was killed in the Senate.
He says Utah lawmakers should support the concept of an independent advisory commission.
"They should get behind it and support it. All it does is create a commission to give additional input on what would be fair boundaries," Nelson says.
For the initiative to make it to the ballot it would require getting 100,000 signatures from voters throughout the state. If that happened it would be up for a vote in 2018.