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Lawsuit filed against Utah leaders over redistricting

Redistricting protest
Posted at 9:04 AM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 17:15:40-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A lawsuit has been filed against the state of Utah over its controversial redistricting measures.

The League of Women Voters of Utah and Mormon Women for Ethical Government filed the lawsuit on Thursday against the legislature's redistricting committee, House Speaker Brad Wilson, Senate President J. Stuart Adams and Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson, who oversees elections for the state.

"We believe voters should choose their politicians. Not the other way around," said Catherine Weller, the president of the League of Women Voters of Utah.

The lawsuit essentially accuses the state of adopting partisan and gerrymandered maps to favor Republicans in political seats, bypassing a voter-approved independent redistricting commission's work.

"Before the Commission had even finished its work, the Legislature devised a partisan gerrymandered map—in violation of the neutral traditional redistricting principles applied under Proposition 4—that would consolidate Republican control of Utah’s congressional delegation for a decade while subordinating voters of minority political viewpoints," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday morning in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court. It specifically seeks to block implementation of the congressional maps approved by the Utah State Legislature last year.

Among the individual plaintiffs suing the state are Malcolm and Victoria Reid, who live in Millcreek. Their neighborhood was split among the four congressional districts.

"This is a matter of giving everyone a voice in determining who represents us. Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, unaffiliated, Constitution party, I don’t think that matters. Right now we have single party rule and that’s unhealthy for good democracy," Malcolm Reid said in an interview with FOX 13 News.

The Reids have different political views. Victoria said she is a Republican, Malcolm said he is a Democrat. But both objected to the way the maps were drawn.

"It subverts the will of the people and i just don’t think that’s fair," Victoria Reid told FOX 13 News.

Better Boundaries, the group that sponsored Prop. 4, the ballot initiative that created the independent redistricting commission, told FOX 13 News it was supporting the lawsuit. The group had previously been fundraising for a potential legal challenge to the maps, but will now give the money toward helping this lawsuit.

"This lawsuit is appropriate, the timing is right and we are in full support of it," said Better Boundaries Executive Director Katie Wright.

Asked about the lawsuit at his monthly news conference on PBS, Governor Spencer Cox said they typically do not comment on pending litigation. When FOX 13 News pressed him about whether he still believed the maps were not gerrymandered, the governor replied: "Correct. Sorry, let me just add: illegal gerrymandering."

Legislative leaders defended their work on redistricting on Thursday.

"Redistricting was no small task and required the tireless efforts of many. While nothing is ever perfect, I am confident our process resulted in legally-abiding and fair maps that will guide Utah for the next decade. We have a great legal team who will review the case and I have full faith in their abilities to represent the Legislature and the people of Utah," Speaker Wilson said in a statement to FOX 13 News.

President Adams' office said it had not yet seen the lawsuit, but insisted "the legislature completed its constitutional duties to draw district boundaries that represent all areas of Utah while meeting population criteria and followed legal and time-tested redistricting principles."

"I will review this newly filed lawsuit and respond, in time, to the court," Lt. Gov. Henderson said in a statement to FOX 13 News.

Read the lawsuit here: