Opinion: Daily Journal

The Utah Beachhead

LOS ANGELES – Utah and North Carolina will head to the U.S. Supreme Court today to tussle over a new congressional seat.

Utah says that the U.S. Census Bureau erred in 2000 when it “imputed” the number of households in some neighborhoods with such scant evidence that the households might actually be businesses or abandoned warehouses.

The federal government and North Carolina will argue that the Census Bureau has used the imputation procedure for years with the full knowledge of Congress. They will say it is too late to lodge a complaint, that even if a policy change were warranted it should be put in place for the next census in 2010 rather than modified retroactively.

Everyone grants that North Carolina’s new 13th congressional seat, and only that seat, is at stake in the dispute. Utah badly wants the seat – and many Republicans, including some in North Carolina, want them to have it, too, because it would probably end up safely in the GOP column. North Carolina’s leaders badly want to keep the 13th district, as it adds to our political stature and increases our value in the Electoral College. It’s also been drawn by a Democratic General Assembly to tilt in favor of Democratic candidates.

I’ve had a hard time getting exorcised about this issue one way or the other.

In my mind, the state legislative districts are a far more consequential political battleground than the fight for control of the U.S. House, which Democrats appear to have lost this year, anyway. My feeling is, state lawmakers will have a hard enough time redrawing their own districts and balancing the state’s budget this year without having to draw a new congressional map to reapportion after losing the 13th. They don’t need another distraction.

But this is, as the Who once sang, a “legal matter from now on.” Could be interesting.