A representative democracy is designed to safeguard the interests of the population. Electoral districts must be redrawn every ten years by the state legislature, which in the state of Utah, has been overwhelmingly Republican. This tradition has allowed Republicans to manufacture districts to favor their party, a strategy known as gerrymandering. This political practice, which continues to threaten the foundation of our democracy, has existed in this nation since 1812. Redrawing of districts has become an “art,” peculiarly drawn shapes have exemplified how undemocratic and unethical U.S. political parties have become during recent decades.
Elected officials should be a reflection of the electorate. Gerrymandering has distorted this principle. In the past, state legislatures have had the ability to choose their voters by creating infamous, oddly-shaped districts. This practice is not only unfair for the opposite party but also for the communities they are meant to protect. Rather than winning government seats due to the popularity of their politics, these officials are fixing the game to ensure their victory in every election. In the blood-sport that is politics, gerrymandering is cheating, disguised as strategy, and it disrupts the fair playing ground the Founding Fathers envisioned. There are no real winners and losers when those in charge have already rigged the system to reinforce the chain of command.
Aside from the political sphere, gerrymandering deprives thousands of individuals of their representative voices. The districts are commonly drawn to dilute the power of certain minorities by packing them all together or spreading them amongst several districts. State legislatures are actively disenfranchising communities who are already at a disadvantage. These actions truly betrays the founding ideal of “We the People” that gave rise to this nation. Instead of representing the voices of all the electorate, officials are only concerned with perpetuating the “Washington Establishment.”
This practice affects voters and the government itself. As a result, the unprofessionalism displayed by both parties at Congress, when one side of the aisle feels the other is playing dirty, is unsurprising. Gerrymandering has deepened the divide between our political parties, and consequently, our representatives are even more polarized. Democrats and Republicans are unable to work together or to even show respect for one another: both perceive the other as the villain of the story, and cooperation is unattainable as long as elections are tainted by the corruption of gerrrymandering.
Therefore, it is time for Utah and the United States to restore their representative democracy through a nonpartisan redistricting. This month, Proposition 4 proposed the creation of an independent group that would be in charge of redrawing electoral districts in our state. This proposition will have the greatest impact on the Salt Lake County because this county does not currently have a representative in the House who represents the interests of an ever-growing, diverse population. This proposition will also reinstate some dignity to our politics and encourage bipartisanship. Proposition 4 returns the power of representation to the people. The results for the vote were 50.3 percent for, and 49.7 against — a dangerously close victory that suggests many Utahns are happy with this historically unfair practice.