The Nacilbupera Guzzle

Whoever examines with attention the history of the dearths and famines … will find, I believe, that a dearth never has arisen from any combination among the inland dealers in corn, nor from any other cause but a real scarcity, occasioned sometimes perhaps, and in some particular places, by the waste of war, but in by far the greatest number of cases by the fault of the seasons; and that a famine has never arisen from any other cause but the violence of government attempting, by improper means, to remedy the inconveniences of a dearth. (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations IV.5.44)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Crisis Caused by an Ambiguous Map: Utah's District 57 (Update)

For the past fortnight or so, the residents of Utah's House District 57 (a newer portion of Cedar Hills in Utah County) represented by Craig Frank and to a smaller extent the state at large, has been perplexed by an accidental discovery by Frank that he didn't live in his district according to state records: a requirement stipulated by the Utah Constitution.

For me1, there has been a plethora of confusion over this dilemma as reported in the media which seems to have been finally put to rest by the information in the video below, from the District 57 group of voters "Our Vote Counts":

The video highlights that the state was relying on an oxymoronic map showing conflict between the words "city boundary" and the drawn city line whereas the county went with the city boundaries. The city boundaries were certified through several cycles of elections and Lt. Governors (who in Utah serve as Secretaries of State as we haven't that position). These points highlighted in the video and the group's website seem to be rather ignored in the Utah mass media which hasn't helped to alleviate my personal confusion and frustration over the matter.

It seems however, in light of Frank's resignation on Friday (Daily Herald) that there is working another solution as discussed on yesterday's Red Meat Radio (KTKK, 630AM): with a 2/3 supermajority required in both houses, pass SB 113 which would define the boundary for District 57 as the one which everyone has been happily using for the past decade. On the program, Rep. Hughes (R-51) cited concerns about the bill due to lawsuit concerns and appearances of gerrymandering.

Hughes' lawsuit concerns by Democratic operatives were balanced out during the program by the point that the residents of District 57 are threatening a lawsuit to protect their vote. Having been an early outspoken critic on the importance of non-gerrymandered results on upcoming reapportionment (Nacilbupera, Nov 2010) let me say this: declaring (or moving, whichever be your position) the lines for district 57 contains NO FORM of gerrymandering, but rather righting what has been supposed and incontrovertible all along. Indeed, it seems that any alternative other than this could be considered gerrymandering or at minimum deprecating the will of the voters.

Has anyone speculated if Matheson would still be in office if the lines that the state now upholds were enforced? In 2002, liberal Democrat Matheson won a squeaker against John Swallow and District 57 is staunch and loudspoken conservative. Surely numerous dilemmas such as this could be posed. Without diminishing the plausibility of other solutions, I wholeheartedly support SB 113 and with the state legislature convening tomorrow, urge its passage.

A Time to Reconsider the Residency Requirement

An interesting related issue to all this is to note that while federal Congressional leaders can live outside their boundaries, according to the Utah State Constitution Utah state lawmakers cannot. Last October, I blogged about my opposition to Utah Constitutional Amendment B because it put increased requirements for state legislative office:

If the citizens feel like someone is being a carpetbagger, then let the citizens have freedom through our competitive caucus system to elect someone else.

Although Amendment B passed by nearly 85%--a larger margin than any of the four proposed Amendments--it was widely dismissed as a positive which should be passed. In fact the voter information pamphlet even lacked a "Argument Against" to give voters a pause to think about the consequences of extending residency requirements. Perhaps the crisis surrounding Frank's eligibility may help to demonstrate that there can be unforeseen and unwanted consequences to having a residency requirement for legislators as part of our state's Constitution.

++++ Update: 6pm:

Found today's Daily Herald Editorial (h/t Joel Wright) "Honor in Resignation" which helps clarify that Frank resigned specifically for the passage of SB113. The editorial also links the Laura Cabanilla issue here in Provo to which as a resident I concur: Cabanilla definitely should step down. To quote the Herald: "Elective office is not a right or a personal possession."

1 As some setting disclosures, while I am not a resident of District 57, in a few months my son will be a registered voter of the District. I like Craig Frank as a legislator and agree with him on most political issues and would most likely vote for him were I to live in the District. Conversely, I am not a Frank partisan whereby I feel it my duty to uphold Frank over law because of my regard for him.

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