When we moved to Utah almost four years ago, we hardly imagined suing the Utah State Legislature. With both of us having family connections to the state going back several generations, we looked forward to participating in public life. We just didn’t expect our desire for public service to lead us to legal action.

With Malcolm a Democrat, and Vicki a Republican, we have developed strong political navigation skills in our 43 years of marriage. In fact, we intentionally chose a home in an area of the state where political views are mixed and where our respective voices could be heard. What we didn’t anticipate is that the Utah Legislature would use its considerable power to subvert the will of the people. Our voices were being silenced and our voting power was being diluted. We needed to speak up, and on this we were united.

Last year, the Legislature adopted a gerrymandered congressional map that gives a blatant partisan advantage to one party. This was in direct opposition to the will of a majority of Utah voters, who approved Proposition 4, an anti-gerrymandering initiative that proposed an independent redistricting commission and binding nonpartisan map-drawing criteria, in 2018. 

We were among the more than 500,000 Utah voters who supported this measure. We both voted for Prop 4 because we recognize that nonpartisan, fair districting is a good government philosophy that transcends partisan interests. We were frustrated when the Utah Legislature repealed Prop 4 in 2020, but we expected our elected leaders to build on the recommendations of the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission.

Malcolm participated in several sessions of the Independent Redistricting Commission, where he witnessed an open, transparent process that produced fair maps. Their maps prioritized the preservation of communities of interest, minimized divisions of city and county jurisdictions and were free of partisan bias. Respected third parties lauded the maps and the process as a model of good design. 

Unfortunately, the legislative committee appeared to entirely ignore the results presented by the Commission and expressed little interest in honestly incorporating public input. The legislators claimed Utahns wanted a mix of urban and rural voters in each district, when in fact rural voters were asking for the opposite. The Legislature exploited this as a pretext for carving up Salt Lake County.

Before redistricting, we lived in the 4th Congressional District, where the controlling party changed four times in the last five elections. Under the Legislature’s redistricting plan, we have been moved to the 2nd Congressional District, which is projected to be almost 60% Republican. This new congressional district extends 120 miles west to Nevada and 350 miles south to Arizona, while dividing up our neighborhood, city and county. Our Millcreek home is a 45-minute walk from voters in districts 1, 3, and 4 but hundreds of miles from citizens in our own district.

With these changes, Utah will no longer have a single competitive congressional district for at least the next decade. As a moderate Republican, why should Vicki care that her political party has concentrated its power so completely? The answer is simple: Gerrymandered districts harm us all

Overwhelmingly, gerrymandered districts encourage extremism by ensuring that candidates have more to fear from a primary challenger within their own party than from opponents of the other party. Such districts eliminate incentives to appeal to moderates. The same would be true of districts gerrymandered to favor Democrats. Once in office, ideologically extreme candidates are more likely to confine themselves to echo chambers and are less accountable to their constituents. Yet, research has shown that better policy decisions are made when multiple views are considered.

The Utah Constitution declares that “all political power is inherent in the people.” Good governance dictates that all Utahns are fairly represented by their elected officials and that  leaders are held accountable to the will of the people. In pursuit of these democratic principles, we are suing the Utah Legislature. Utah voters should choose our leaders — not the other way around. 

Malcolm Reid is a retired technologist who worked for two Fortune 200 companies and is a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates. Vicki Reid is a former adjunct professor, community volunteer and PR professional who has worked full time for Republican state and federal officeholders. She is also a member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.