NewsLocal News


Redistricting maps clear legislature, ballot initiative possible

Redistricting protest
Posted at 12:19 PM, Nov 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-10 23:22:22-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Legislature approved all of its redistricting maps, ignoring an independent redistricting commission approved by voters.

The House of Representatives voted late Wednesday to approve the Senate district maps, the final map after a long day of battling over the political boundaries of who represents Utahns in congress, legislature and state school board.

Outside the Capitol, about 200 people protested and chanted "veto" calling on the governor issue even a symbolic veto of the maps to show support for the Independent Redistricting Commission. Governor Spencer Cox has said he will not veto the maps.

Redistricting protest
Protesters outside the Utah State Capitol call for Governor Cox to veto the redistricting maps.

The legislature gave final approval to the highly controversial congressional map, triggering threats of a citizen ballot initiative to undo it. House Speaker Brad Wilson told FOX 13 late Wednesday he had been told there may also be a lawsuit over it, but he defended the process as legally sound.

In a 21-7 vote on Wednesday, the Utah State Senate approved the congressional map that splits Salt Lake County into four parts. The bill previously passed the Utah House of Representatives and now heads to Governor Spencer Cox, who has said he will not veto it.

"This map doesn’t dilute any voices, it actually combines urban and rural voices," said Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, who co-chaired the legislature's redistricting committee.

The map passed after some fiery debate on the Senate floor.

"This is gerrymandering at its best," said Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City. " t is cracking communities, dividing communities. You may not agree with their voices, you may not agree with the way they look, or what they think or believe. But they’re also Utahns. Right now we’re dividing our community."

New Congress
The proposed map for Congress advanced by the Utah State Legislature Redistricting Committee

Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, tried to substitute a map proposed by the voter-created independent redistricting commission.

"It’s unconscionable," Sen. Kitchen said of the legislature's map. "It serves no other purpose than diluting the franchising of its residents. One-third of the state’s population is in Salt Lake County."

But Republican senators countered that the congressional map guarantees a mix of urban and rural voices in federal policy decisions.

"I fully support the map that you have come up with. I think it more closely matches what we currently have," said Sen. John Johnson, R-North Ogden.

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, said it was time rural Utah had more of a voice.

"This is about trying to make sure we have a united front back there fighting for the needs of all Utahns," added Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi.

The map passed the Senate with one Republican — Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City — joining Democrats in voting against it. Because it passed the entire legislature with more than a two-thirds majority, a citizen referendum is not possible on the congressional map.

Following the vote, the Utah Democratic Party handed out flash cards of "legislative ABCs" mocking Republicans for their vote. The cards said things like "A is for alarming," "B is for broken" and "C is for callous" over the legislature's handling of the redistricting process.

"If Republicans want to act like children, changing the rules and throwing a tantrum when Prop. 4 didn’t go their way, Utahns will treat them like children," the party said in a statement.

XGR Dems stunt
The Utah Democratic Party distributed these flash cards mocking their Republican counterparts in the redistricting process following the passage of congressional maps on Wednesday.

Better Boundaries, which sponsored Prop. 4 that created the independent redistricting commission, formed a political action committee with an eye toward a ballot initiative.

"That will repeal what is adopted and replace it with independent commission maps," Better Boundaries Executive Director Katie Wright told FOX 13 on Wednesday. "We’ve had that in our back pocket for some time. Of course we can’t file it until after the maps are adopted."

The group also planned to go after legislators in the next election cycle. As of Wednesday, it announced $50,000 in seed money with more pledges of contributions from Utahns angry over redistricting.

"We’re looking for candidates that are vulnerable and visible and we’d like to run people against them," Wright said of lawmakers.

Final map for house
Utah State Legislature
Utah State Legislature