The House Management Committee met at the capitol for nearly three hours today to discuss and hear public comment regarding the representation for Legislative District 57.
For the past week, Representative Frank, the Legislature, and the voters of District 57 have been in a quandary over who the District 57 Representative currently is and who the Representative will be for the next two years. This conundrum stems from the unexpected revelation that Representative Craig Frank, who has represented District 57 since 2003 and was reelected in November, unwittingly moved into a home in 2009 that is not officially located within his district boundaries. It was discovered that the boundary line printed on the official state district maps is different than the boundary shown on the Utah County map that Frank (and everyone else in Utah County) had been using. According to the Utah Constitution, state legislators must reside within the district they represent.
The committee listened to a legal presentation by John Fellows, Legislative General Counsel, and John Cannon, from the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel. Craig Frank addressed the committee and answered questions, and several members of the public addressed the committee regarding what they believe is the correct solution to the issue of whether or not Representative Frank is eligible to remain in office.
In an effort to condense the many ideas, angles and possible solutions whirling around regarding how to address and solve the issue of Frank’s residency, the committee unanimously voted to find “that Craig Frank is not currently a resident of House District 57 based on official district boundaries contained in official maps enacted by the State Legislature.” The committee also unanimously voted to translate this motion into a resolution that will be presented to the House on the first day of the legislative session, which convenes Monday.
“What this motion does is recognize the fact that [Craig Frank] does not currently live in those boundaries,” said Representative Brad Dee (R-Ogden), the author of the motion. “I think that is the foundation upon which we must begin our work.” He added, “We need to start from somewhere.”
This finding should put to rest the argument that Frank is a duly elected and certified Representative of District 57 despite the fact that he does not live in the district boundaries. While this may sound severe, making such a designation clears the way for the Legislature to act. One possible action the Legislature may choose is the popular suggestion that the official boundaries of District 57 be redrawn to reflect the boundaries under which the district has been operating for the past 8 years. Many argue that all parties involved — Rep Frank, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, the County Clerk and the voters — have acted in good faith even though they have participated in the political process all these years using the incorrect boundary lines, and therefore the lines should be redrawn to reflect the traditional boundary currently in use.
Redrawing district boundaries is the exclusive right of the State Legislature. Approval of two-thirds of House members would be required to redraw the boundaries to include Frank’s neighborhood. Representative Frank has stated that he considers himself to be the elected Representative from District 57, and he will attempt to be seated Monday when the Legislature convenes. This will force a debate and vote on the House floor regarding how to rectify the situation.
During the public comments section of the meeting, ten residents of District 57 pleaded with the committee to take the necessary actions to preserve Frank as their Representative. They argued that if the Legislature enforces the official boundary, they will suddenly find themselves in a district where they have not had the opportunity to vote for or against representation. They argued that denying them their duly elected representation disenfranchises them as voters and denies them their rights of suffrage.
Former Congressional candidate Morgan Philpot told the committee, “I think that fix is simple – you re-enfranchise those voters by giving them the vote that you promised them.”
Karen Herd, Republican Precinct Chair of CH01, which is directly affected by this legislative snafu, emphatically petitioned the committee to protect her right to vote. Informing members that her husband would be deployed to active duty within the month, Herd declared, “If he is not going over to Afghanistan to defend my right to vote then I do not know what he’s going over there for, and I would ask you to stop and consider what you are doing when you take away my right to vote.” The situation leaves approximately 2,550 voters (approximately 25% of Cedar Hills) in what Herd refers to as “no votes land”.
Marisa Wright was present to represent the Cedar Hills City Council. She asked the committee to follow the will of the voters. She said, “The will of the people reigns supreme. When in doubt, listen to the will of the people. Please don’t make a farce of the will of the people.”