Plan Might Net 4th House Seat
||Salt Lake Tribune (UT)
||Saturday, June 28, 2003
The full title of this story is: Plan might net 4th House seat ; Hopes revived: If D.C. gets a vote, Utah might get a better shot at boosting its congressional delegation ; Plan revives Utah hopes for 4th House seat
WASHINGTON, DC - In what would be a historic remodeling of the U.S. House of Representatives, Utah could get a new fourth congressional seat under an emerging proposal to give the District of Columbia a first-ever vote in Congress.
Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, is crafting legislation to expand the House by two seats to 437, something that does not require a constitutional amendment. One of those positions would be elected by residents of the nation's capital, where the lack of a representative with voting rights in Congress is manifest in the slogan on the district's license plates, "Taxation Without Representation."
The other new seat probably would go to Utah, which lost its bid for an additional congressional seat to North Carolina by a disputed 856-resident margin following the 2000 Census.
Since a new House member elected by voters residing in the District of Columbia would probably be a Democrat, Utah's rock-ribbed Republicanism is another factor giving any such plan traction in the GOP-dominated House, where the majority wants to maintain its margin.
Currently, the state's congressional domains are the 1st District, which covers northern Utah and the west desert, with a slice of west Salt Lake City, held by Republican Rob Bishop; the 2nd District, which includes Salt Lake County mostly east of I-15 and most of eastern and southern Utah, held by Democrat Jim Matheson; and the 3rd District, which encompasses Utah County, Salt Lake County west of I-15, central Utah and Millard and Beaver counties, held by Republican Chris Cannon.
Cannon, the state's senior House member who also serves on the Government Reform Committee, has told Davis he is supportive of the as-yet-undrafted legislation.
"If this were to happen, Utah would be the logical seat to add," said Cannon. "Utahns are the most underrepresented people in Congress and at the rate we're growing, we will gain two seats in the 2010 Census."
The state took its claim that it was cheated out of a fourth congressional seat to the Supreme Court in 2001, arguing the Census Bureau failed to count about 11,000 Mormon missionaries working overseas in the state's population base, and that the complex estimations used by the bureau in determining household populations are unconstitutional guesswork. The high court let stand a lower-court ruling against the state's charges without specifying its reasoning.
The prospect that Congress could accomplish what the state's top lawyers could not was welcomed at Gov. Mike Leavitt's office in Salt Lake City.
"The governor would find that most intriguing," Leavitt's spokeswoman Natalie Gochnour said Friday. "On more than one substantial claim in our Census case, we were wronged."
In anticipation of a Supreme Court victory that never came, the 2001 Utah Legislature drew up an alternative redistricting map that carved a new 4th District out of the Salt Lake County communities of Midvale, Murray, Taylorsville, West Jordan, South Jordan, Riverton, Draper, Bluffdale and Herriman.
Washington radio station WTOP -- owned by Salt Lake-based Bonneville International Corp. -- broke the news of Davis' plan Thursday, although the station did not attribute the possibility of a new Utah seat to a particular source, nor did a Friday Washington Post story that reiterated the D.C.-Utah expansion plans. Davis' office declined to confirm that an additional seat for Utah was part of the ongoing discussions.
"All I can say at this point is, in his quest to find a legislative way to grant D.C. residents a vote in the House, one of the options Rep. Davis is considering is expanding the House by two seats," spokesman David Marin said Friday.
Residents of the federal colony on the Potomac River earned the right to cast presidential votes in 1964 and began electing nonvoting representatives to Congress in 1971. The U.S. House has stood at 435 members since 1963, after briefly bumping up to 437 when Alaska and Hawaii became states in the 1950s.