The winds on Utah's Capitol Hill are blowing increasingly Republican these days. If this is not the case, the GOP needs to further explain its decision to limit its primaries to Utahns registered as Republicans. It also needs to explain its unabashed carving up of state legislative districts that eliminates the districts now held by Democrat incumbents or forces primary elections among Democrat representatives and senators serving in currently adjacent districts. And why cannot congressional districts be shaped in such a way that the mostly urban Wasatch Front can be divided in a fashion that respects natural communities?
Please don't tell us that that's just how the numbers worked out. There are obviously politics at work here. Please don't tell us that your numbers suggest that there are just that many more Republicans in Utah. Most Utahns don't register by political party, and we'd venture that a goodly share don't vote a straight party ticket.
The larger issue is a matter of choice. Unless there's a change in the winds from Capitol Hill and the GOP state party, people who most need a voice in public policy issues stand to be shut out. This isn't just your friendly Deseret News editorial board blowing smoke. Nearly 70 percent of Utahns — more than half of them rank-and-file Republicans — oppose closing the GOP primary, according to the results of a recent Dan Jones and Associates poll conducted for the Deseret News and KSL.
The GOP needs to carefully consider just how much it wants to flex its muscle. If voters perceive they have been forced out of the process or that their choices have been severely limited, history suggests they may retaliate against Republican candidates at the polls.
The GOP has a lot at stake. It needs to court Utah's sizable independent vote, and since election results tell us that a good many Democrats also cross over the partisan aisle on Election Day, it doesn't serve Republicans to further alienate Democrats.
The question we keep asking ourselves is, how much is enough for the Republican Party? There is no Democrat who holds statewide elected office. The GOP controls the House and Senate by sizable margins, although Democrats made considerable gains in the Senate in recent years.
Election results suggest that, left to their own devices, most people vote Republican in Utah. But at the same time, they value the notion of choice. Yes, it's up to Democrats to field strong candidates, but between closed primary elections and proposed legislative district boundaries specifically crafted to protect some GOP incumbents, Democrats face an incredibly steep undertaking.
So, legislators, explain this gerrymandering. We don't see the logic behind it. We only see partisanship and a concerted effort to squelch differing points of view.
The good news is, there's time to reconsider how the redistricting will occur. We hope choice and fair play will weigh heavily in lawmakers' deliberations during the upcoming legislative session. These are concepts that Utahns hold dear, and their current representatives should respect that.