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Utah asks for redistricting lawsuit to be dismissed

Posted at 5:14 PM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-02 22:19:30-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawyers for the state of Utah are asking a judge to reject a lawsuit challenging the legislature's controversial congressional redistricting maps.

In a pair of motions filed in 3rd District Court on Monday, the Utah Attorney General's Office and the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel (which represents the legislature) signaled they were seeking to dismiss the lawsuit.

The League of Women Voters and Mormon Women for Ethical Government filed a lawsuit challenging the congressional maps approved by the Utah State Legislature, accusing lawmakers of bypassing a voter-approved independent redistricting committee's maps in favor of their own, which they alleged are heavily gerrymandered in favor of Republican control. The plaintiffs are seeking to block the maps, which split Salt Lake County into four pieces, from going into effect.

The Utah Attorney General's Office, representing Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson, basically asked for her to be dismissed from the lawsuit. In her role, Lt. Gov. Henderson is the chief elections officer for the state of Utah.

"Plaintiffs complain of actions taken by the Utah Legislature, its redistricting committee, and individual members of the Legislature, but do not complain of any action taken by the Lt. Governor. Rather, Plaintiffs have included the Lt. Governor in this action to enjoin her from administering Congressional elections pursuant to the Congressional districts enacted by the Legislature. Thus, virtually all of the allegations of Plaintiffs’ Complaint are directed to parties other than the Lt. Governor, and the Lt. Governor responds accordingly," the state wrote.

The Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel told the judge it would be seeking a dismissal, arguing the legislature was well within its prerogative.

"Plaintiffs’ claims boil down to a political disagreement over how congressional boundaries should be drawn. Plaintiffs would transform the highly political task of drawing congressional boundaries into a judicial exercise based on illusory standards of political equality in a highly unequal partisan landscape," legislative attorney John Fellows wrote, adding: "For Plaintiffs to prevail on any of their claims would require an unprecedented reading of the Utah Constitution, which would distort beyond recognition provisions never intended to apply to the Legislature’s constitutional duty to draw congressional boundaries. The Utah Constitution has committed the responsibility for the redistricting of congressional boundaries exclusively to the Legislature. The Court should honor the Constitution’s framing."

According to a filing from the court, Judge Dianna Gibson has tentatively put the lawsuit on track for a 2023 trial.

Read the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel's filing here: