Update: What’s happening with voting rights and redistricting?

March 24th, 2017|Issue Update|0 Comments

The latest movements at the state and national level

Written by Miriah Elliott, Action Utah Captain

There are many facets to ensuring that our representative democracy functions as it should.  These include access to voting, fair drawing of legislative districts and others.  While there are some promising movements nationwide, the Utah legislature was not kind to these efforts this session. 

There was a bill filed to make voter registration automatic when getting a driver’s license (HB 159), a bill that would have allowed ranked-choice voting for certain offices (HB 349), a bill that would have provided for an independent commission, rather than the legislature, to draw legislative boundaries (HB 411), a resolution to provide basic guidelines for the legislature to use in drawing legislative boundaries (HJR 001), and a bill to allow for electronic signatures on certain petitions and initiatives – to make it easier for citizens to have their voices heard (HB 403).  None of these bills made it through the process.  Many were killed early on in committees, some making it a bit further.

 Nonetheless, nationwide, there have been successes for fair redistricting.  In Whitford v. Gill, a federal court in Wisconsin struck down the state’s districts as an unlawful gerrymander on partisan grounds – finding that the Republican redistricting plan unconstitutionally burdened the representational rights of Democratic voters.  This case has been appealed to the Supreme Court and will likely be heard next fall.  In Perez v. Abbott, a federal court in Texas found that the legislature intentionally drew district lines to dilute and diminish the votes of minorities.  This case will also make its way to the Supreme Court.  Further, President Obama, former attorney general Eric Holder, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and others have indicated that they will focus on redistricting reform nationwide.

 Utah citizens care about access to voting and fair legislative districts. Efforts are underway to address these concerns in Utah.  We at Action Utah are committed to these issues, and they form the basis for good governance.  Stay tuned for further updates!

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