Two recent ruling by the Supreme Court will impact the census and redistricting of the US in the next few years. Utah Governor Gary Herbert responded to the two rulings.
The supreme court ruled on Thursday that federal courts have no role to play in policing political districts drawn for partisan gain.
In his monthly press conference Governor Herbert said that the supreme court ruling doesn’t have any real impact on the state other than it confirms that gerrymandering is a state issue.
In November of last year Utah residents passed Proposition 4 by less than one percent. The proposition creates a seven-member independent redistricting commission to draft and recommend to the congressional and state legislative districts to the Utah State Legislature.
Proposition 4 was popular in Summit County with 64.6% of residents voting for the initiative. In Wasatch County, residents were more split on Proposition 4, 51.6% voted against the initiative while 48.4% voted for it.
Although Governor Herbert did not outright back Proposition 4 at his June Press Conference, he said he agrees guidelines should exist for how district maps should be drawn.
“Those who are involved in elections are concerned about gerrymandering. So, it makes it difficult for one party or the other party and it probably has work both ways in the state of Utah. There some areas that seem to be Democrat strongholds and some that are Republicans strongholds. How do you carve up the state to make it fair for everybody and get the appropriate representation? Not necessarily an easy thing to do. I do know the last time we did it, that Democrats and Republicans unanimously agreed to the legislatives redistricting. The only controversy seems to be whether we've got the congressional seats redistrict correctly. Whether you have a pinwheel design or carve it up a different way, that will probably be part of the discussion and debate as we go forward. I'm anxious to see what the legislature comes up with.”
Utah residents passed three propositions in 2018. Proposition 2 legalized medical marijuana in the state, after it passed Governor Herbert called a special session for the legislature to change the way the legalization of medical cannabis was implemented.
Governor Herbert believes the legislature will not make major changes to the way that Proposition 4 is implemented.
“I think they’re going to listen to the will of the people and again although it past by about 1%. I think some recommendations in that are probably very appropriate to be considered as they redistrict. So, I don't think it's a matter of me encouraging them, I think they will do that just as a matter of course. I think that's important. I think we want to have people feel like that how we redistrict has some fairness to it. That it's really not just a political decision, but it's really designed to in fact help the people have fair and adequate representation. Whatever the office is that they're voting upon. So, I think the legislature will do the right thing in the right way.”
Of course, redistricting will not begin until after the 2020 Census is complete. Another ruling from the US Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against the current Presidential Administration. The court blocked the administrations proposed census questions regarding legal residency.
Governor Herbert responded to that ruling.
“We’re very sensitive to the question whether you’re a citizen or not. Although knowing who are citizens and who are not in our society probably helps us as far as developing policy. So, it's probably a piece of information that’s probably helpful. The question goes beyond that is whether you're illegal or undocumented. That gets to be a little bit more emotional. Of course, as you know Utah's been very friendly and should be to refugees, and to immigration folks. We have a significant belief in compassion and humanity of people and wanting to keep families together and all those things. Which I think are important values that represent Utah.”
Governor Herbert also said that the state is prepared financially to conduct the census next year.
“If we’re inadequate that'll be corrected in the upcoming legislative session. I think some money's been set aside whether it's adequate or not. As we get closer to the census next year, we’ll probably have an opportunity to beef up that fund and make sure that we have adequate funds to do an appropriate census evaluation in Utah.”