Don Gale: Tribune should keep a Utah Legislature anti-democracy scoreboard – Salt Lake Tribune
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Pledge of Allegiance in the House Chamber as the Utah Legislature hold a special session in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021.
The Utah Legislature is anti-democracy. Voters deserve a box score of the Legislature’s anti-democracy record.
Lawmakers proved their devotion to anti-democracy when they refused to consider redistricting maps provided by a voter-created redistricting commission. Voters called for such a commission during the 2020 election. The commission spent considerable time and effort gathering demographic data and drawing maps designating fair and equitable voting districts. The commission used citizen input, well-defined criteria and the latest technology to create maps based on population, established borders, common interests and fairness.
Legislators also drew maps. They used political input, undefined criteria and abacus technology to create maps based on self-interest, politics, non-existent borders, political interests and discrimination.
The legislative redistricting effort was certainly among the most anti-democracy actions taken by an elected body in the 125 yeast since Utah became a state. A majority of Utah voters voted to create an independent redistricting commission. The commission did exactly what voters wanted it to do. Legislators rejected the vote, the independent commission and its recommendations.
In other words, a majority of elected representatives rejected democracy.
The opportunity to be reasonably rational and fair about voting district boundaries comes only once every 10 years. Voters deserve at least a minimum amount of intelligent consideration. Once again this year, voters were stiffed by a gang of mostly self-serving men who seem to care little about the state and its people.
No doubt, lawmakers believe voters will forget about this year’s legislative assault on democracy before election days roll around in 2022 and 2024. Perhaps. But this newspaper’s editorial board has an opportunity to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Suppose the Tribune were to publish each week an anti-democracy box score. In the print edition each week would appear a small box labeled “Anti-democracy Vote.” A legend would explain: “Utah legislators who voted against the will of the people on redistricting.” The box would include district numbers and names of five or six lawmakers who ignored the wishes of Utah citizens and instead chose to support district maps created solely by the legislature.
In the box score, district numbers and names would rotate each week so that the full list of anti-democracy representatives appeared over 15 or 20 weeks. The anti-democracy box score would be printed weekly until the 2024 election, when the most voters are likely to participate.
It may be true that some readers will choose to ignore the box score. However, that group will not include legislators. They will come to dread the days their own names appear in the box score. Some may even decide not to run again.
Such a box score is good journalism. Every word is true, accurate and relevant. The weekly reminder covers the five “W’s” of quality news — Who (named lawmakers), What (rejected majority vote), When (following the 2020 election), Where (in closed-door meetings) and Why (for partisan political advantage).
It’s time to rescue democracy from legislative abuse.
Don Gale has been a Utah journalist for 60-plus years. He has known many Utah legislators. Most are good people, but some forget where they are, who put them there, and why they meet in the people’s house.
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