This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The lesson of the election of 2016: Every vote counts. Except when it doesn't.
In Utah, the race for House District 32 race was won by incumbent Republican LaVar Christensen by three count 'em, three votes over Democratic challenger Suzanne Harrison.
So anyone who might have wished that Christensen, one of the Legislature's most outspokenly conservative members, had been set aside for the more centrist doctor, and yet did not bother to vote, might understandably be kicking themselves today. If only you had mailed in your ballot on time, or come to the polling place with a couple of friends, it all might have turned out differently.
On the other hand, the same Democrats who might have voted for Harrison, if they had bothered to vote at all, have a different bad feeling about the presidential election.
As the counts keep coming in Utah is not the only state where the idea of knowing the results of an election that night is a relic of the past it becomes more and more clear that at least 2 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than voted for Donald Trump. But so many of Clinton's extra votes were in California, a state she had locked up all along, that she still fell short in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states she needed to win the Electoral College count.
So, because of that odd system, once the Democrat got to 50 percent plus one in California, New York and other states where she did well, all the other ballots cast might as well not exist.
If that strikes you as unfair, you may want to join the call to eliminate the Electoral College and just go by the national popular vote. Better solutions not requiring a constitutional amendment might be a Democratic National Committee campaign that doesn't take the Rust Belt for granted and a full restoration of the Voting Rights Act, so that successful efforts to disenfranchise minority communities in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Texas wouldn't have perhaps tipped the balance in those key states.
About Wisconsin. That's where a federal court ruled the other day after, of course, it was too late to do anything about this year's election that the state's legislative districts were so clearly drawn to give the advantage to Republicans over Democrats that it amounted to an unconstitutional level of unfairness. As explained by Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman, the court decided that a system where Republicans got 48 percent of the vote statewide but 60 percent of the seats in the Legislature was too far off kilter to be explained as anything other than deliberate disenfranchisement.
In Utah, the population of likely Democrat voters is so firmly concentrated in Salt Lake City, West Valley City and Park City that applying the Wisconsin ruling might not help the balance in the Legislature. But it could help with the obvious assault on fairness that is clear in the way our congressional districts are drawn.
Again this year, the most lopsided example is the 2nd Congressional District, which sneaks Salt Lake City's more urban, liberal Avenues neighborhood and University area into a geographically huge district that is overwhelmingly Republican. That means that, in each of his three elections, Rep. Chris Stewart has won the district by considerable margins, but was pounded in Salt Lake County by margins of roughly 28 percentage points to successive rivals Jay Seegmiller, Luz Robles and Charlene Albarran.
In 2014, Democrat Doug Owens beat Republican Mia Love in Salt Lake County, but lost the district as a whole very narrowly when the downstate returns came in. This year, Love beat Owens again, by a larger margin, managing a narrow plurality in Salt Lake County. Which makes one wonder if Misty Snow, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, wasn't right to complain that Owens' problem was that he was too meek to embrace his Democratic label.
In Summit County, 1st District Democratic candidate Peter Clemens outpolled the otherwise invincible Rep. Rob Bishop by almost 10 percentage points.
Clearly, the Utah Legislature has designed the state's four congressional districts to make sure that Democrats, and those who might vote Democrat from time to time, have their voices squelched. Which makes the whole electoral process dull and unattractive to voters and potential candidates alike. There are two ways to fix that. Get the federal courts to apply the Wisconsin case to Utah. Or elect more Democrats to the Utah Legislature.
Which means showing up, so that, once in a while, a Democrat wins by three votes.
George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, remembers staying up all night to see who won the elections of 1976 and 2000. No more. firstname.lastname@example.org