For better or worse: A fourth seat in Congress
For the last 10 years Utah's politicians have been grousing about the fact that we lost out on another seat in Congress by between 800-900 residents due to the numbers counted within the state in the 2000 Census.
Well we now we have arrived. It was announced last week that Utah now has about 2.8 million people and that we get to steal a seat from some state that is losing theirs because of a population decline.
Sounds just right, doesn't it?
But there are always two sides to a coin, and this one definitely has an up and down side.
I used to be a real comic book fiend when I was a kid and Batman was one of my favorites. One of his biggest crime opponents was a guy named Two Face would flip a coin to see what he would do in any trying situation. He often did it when he was deciding whether he would kill someone. The good side of the coin had a smiling him. The other side had his bad side (one half of his actual face was half destroyed by some accident or something like that). If it landed on its bad side, it was curtains for his victim.
Our coin in this game has a good and bad side too. The good side is that any more political clout our state may have in Washington is a plus.
The bad side is that the change could damage our area politically.
Let me explain that second point.
Carbon County has always been a bit of a maverick when it comes to politics. It seems we have often been in the crosshairs of politicians upstate because we didn't agree with their way of thinking.
In the early days of our county, the state tended to be Democratic. We on the other hand had a lot of Repulicans in office up until the early 1930s when the labor movement really began to affect the voting in our area and we became one of the strongest Democratic strongholds in the state.
That actually put us in sync with the rest fo the state for quite awhile.
In the last 40 years the state has become more and more Republican, while Carbon has remained largely Democratic, although, particularly in recent years, very conservatively Democratic.
At present we are represented by Jim Matheson, who, as a Blue Dog Democrat irks those in the party that are extremely progressive, but he seems to generally please the conservative Democrats and even a lot of the Republicans in his district.
How a new fourth congressional seat will fit into the state's geo-political atmosphere remains to be seen. You can bet though, that when the coin is thrown for how it will be redistricted, gerrymandering will be on at least one side of the coin.
There has already been a lot of talk about how the state will be divided up. In fact the discussion has been going on for the 10 years, since the last census. Some have suggested natural geographical barriers, while other say that they feel the seat should be an at large seat elected by the entire state (although, while not being any kind of expert on law, I think that may not be constitutional).
Will the state legislature pull Carbon and parts of Salt Lake County that are more liberal apart, so they can't vote as a block anymore? Will they stick Carbon with other counties in which the bluest thing around is the sky? Or will the put all the progressives in one block but load it up with enough conservative voting districts to keep a Democrat from ever being elected by making sure the nominee is always too left for the majority of the district?
A lot of questions. Maybe I am being unfair, but politics in this state have been pretty predictable in the last four decades.
While we are discussing it there is also the question of state legislative seats and their redistricting too. That will also need to be done. Most Carbon residents feel that the only real seat that represents them is from District 69, even though at third of the county is in District 67. I live in 67 and I have no real complaints about our representation at the present time, but I would like to see a person from this side of the mountain representing our entire area once again.
The redistricting of seats, whether they be in Congress or at the state legislative level, has always been a controversial subject. Gerrymandering is not the private property of one party. It has been done by both parties at one time or another.
I written before, I write it now, and will write it again that I believe in balance. One party rule is never good for anyone, except for those that think one group has all the good ideas.
Unlike many states, we have turned down the idea of an independent commission to perform redistricting. Now it will be up to the legislature itself and I hope that the coin they use to make the decision is a fair and balanced coin.
On the other hand, sometimes Two Face ignored what the coin said and shot his victims anyway.