Opinion: Utah legislature commits crime against humanity

October 18, 2011 11:45 am

The Utah Legislature has committed a crime against humanity.

On Monday night, both houses adopted a map for Utah's representatives to Congress that would border on the laughable if it didn't hurt so many communities.

The view from space may look reasonable, but when you get down to street-level details, the map is awful. Many cities have been illogically split, including Lehi, Springville, Payson, Spanish Fork, Santaquin, Park City and many others.

Sanpete County was divided so that Mt. Pleasant is in the new Fourth District and Ephraim and Manti are in the Second. Eagle Mountain was joined far north to West Jordan.

And these are just a few examples of the idiocy. We wouldn't wonder but that a majority of the legislature might have passed through Provo on Sunday to take advantage of the new beer sales, except that Utah beer would not explain this. They must have been drinking something harder.

Anybody who thinks that communities of interest and intact communities do not belong in the redistricting process should think again. These are the very fiber of our political system.

To divide the state's natural communities in this way -- largely motivated by a desire to give advantage to one political party -- is enough to bring James Madison howling from the grave. The House voted 50-19; the Senate 20-5.

The people of Utah ought to rise up and wring legislators' necks like Thanksgiving turkeys. This is a colossal foul-up, which is what always happens when you undertake a major task like redistricting with impure motives. The urge to gerrymander won out over statesmanship. It's a low point for the state of Utah.

Now we're going to have to listen to lawmakers defend themselves in the most syrupy, persuasive voices they can muster. We already have a headache.

One sign of how bad things had gotten with the process was Monday's lame attempt by the Dave Clark Five to carve out a district seemingly custom-made for somebody from Santa Clara to win a seat in Congress. That proposal would have split Provo at Center Street, with Clark's hometown of Spanish Fork falling in with St. George.

Fortunately, the Senate was having none of that, but what it adopted was just as bad.

The outcome is a slap in the face to the people of Utah. The process was little more than a charade that excluded legitimate voices -- not only Democrats but a majority of Utahns who are unaffiliated with any party. There have been too many secrets, too much decision-making behind the fig leaf of Republican caucuses. The doors were closed too often.

Republicans have been blinded to their duty and even to good sense. Closed meetings make for closed minds, as proved by this outcome, which can only be described as farce. (Well, that's not the only description, but we can print it.)

The GOP should have brought Democrats to the table and invited them to have a real voice. That's essential, and what was offered was not sufficient. Steamrollers are always unhealthy. After all, this was not a moral issue but one of fairness.

Genuine bipartisanship in this case would have helped the Republicans in the long run. Trying to gerrymander districts to benefit selected members (Wimmer for Congress, anyone?) will only blacken the party's reputation, which has already taken some hits this year.

They're slow learners, these Republicans. May James Madison haunt them all.