Or maybe you voted against it, but I’ll bet it wasn’t because you thought this might happen.
“It sounds like a deliberate hit,” Rex Facer, chair of the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission, told me as he described the first meeting Tuesday night.
But, since we can’t have nice things in the modern world without people wanting to smash them, this newfound openness and access has led to things like Zoom bombing, or the practice of logging into meetings and being a nuisance — an incessant nuisance, that is.
Those in charge of the meeting began deleting offenders as soon as they joined and began acting out. “But as soon as we took them off, they came right back on,” Facer said.
But if it was a deliberate hit, count me among those who have trouble adjusting to pandemic Zoom-land.
Yes, it’s true that Proposition 4 passed by less than 1% of the vote, but that’s hardly an incentive to wreck the whole thing. An independent commission to redraw political boundaries after the 2020 Census isn’t exactly the kind of outrage that leads to protests and demonstrations.
The commission’s job is to use data from the Census, which will be available in August, to redraw political boundaries, with an eye toward preserving communities of interest, not splitting cities into two legislative districts or among two members of Congress, and generally avoiding odd-shaped divisions that deny an ethnic group or a political party real representation.
This happens every 10 years, but until now the Legislature did all the work, and people tended to get angry. Proposition 4 lets the independent commission take a shot at it, eventually passing on its recommendation to lawmakers.
But really, in the end, the Legislature — which often is concerned mainly with preserving political power — could just ignore what the commission says and do what it wants, anyway.
Which makes the actions of a few Zoomers all the more curious. What have they got against letting other voices in on the redistricting process?
Evidence shows the answer isn’t simple. Zoom bombers collect meeting links across the internet and attack mostly for the fun of it. Researchers at Boston University and Binghamton University recently presented results of a year-long research project to a security conference. It found that most of the time, it’s an inside job.
A report on the research by wired.com said 70% of the invitations to Zoom bomb on 4chan, and 82% of those on Twitter originated from someone who was a legitimate participant in the meeting.
None of which helps Utah’s Redistricting Commission much.
Their job already is hard enough, especially when it comes to deciding how to draw the state’s four congressional House districts. Lawmakers have tended to make these all part urban, part rural, with each taking a slice of the urban Wasatch Front.
Kevin Cromar, director of research at the Marron Institute of Urban Management, told me he contacted more than 50 mayors across Utah and found that nearly all of them wanted their cities to be grouped in the same district with similar-sized cities — urban with urban, and rural with rural. Also, people really don’t like living in the state’s current fourth district, which has been extremely competitive and nasty.
Organizing boundaries can be tricky, and the outcome is important. The commission has an impressive list of members, including former state supreme court justice Christine Durham, former congressman Rob Bishop and former state senator Lyle Hillyard.
“They didn’t sign up to be ignored,” Facer said, explaining why he thinks current lawmakers won’t simply toss their recommendations aside.
But first, the commission has to hope it can get through a simple meeting without attracting the wrong sort of attention.