(KCPW News) The Fair Boundaries Coalition was dealt a major blow today by the Utah Supreme Court, which ruled that even if the state has an independent redistricting commission, the Legislature could conduct its own redistricting process simultaneously. But the coalition still plans to press ahead with a ballot initiative to create that commission, says Merrill Nelson, a former state representative and chief sponsor of proposed referendum.
“If the Legislature wants to do its own process, and ignore the law, ignore the commission, they can do that, but it defeats the will of the people,” he told KCPW.
Because of the Supreme Court ruling, the state’s $1 million estimate of how much a redistricting commission would cost will stand. The coalition originally went to court to argue that estimate is too high.
Nelson believes that even though an independent commission would not have any authority to actually implement a separate redistricting plan, it will still be useful.
“In the end, what we have, what we’ll produce, is an independent redistricting plan, with which the people can compare what the legislature has done, and the legislature’s self interest and self dealing will become even more manifest,” he said.
Under the Utah Constitution, the legislature has the final authority to draw the state’s legislative boundaries. To get the initiative on the ballot, the Fair Boundaries Coalition will have to collect 95,000 signatures.