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Some Utahns upset with state legislature's proposed redistricting maps

Posted at 10:36 PM, Nov 06, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Democrats are up in arms over the latest proposal for congressional redistricting in the state of Utah.

Maps are also being drawn up for school board seats, as well as the state House and Senate, but the proposed congressional district map is catching all the attention and controversy.

The Utah Independent Redistricting Commission released three proposed maps for each earlier this week.

But it's the congressional redistricting map introduced Friday night by the legislature's redistricting committee that's causing controversy.

A day after the release of that map, the Utah Democratic Party is sounding the alarm on issues they have with the proposed boundaries.

“It’s undemocratic, and it’s exactly what we expected. Republicans are ignoring the will of the people in search of silencing Utahns for 10 more years,” said Utah Democratic Party Acting Chair Diane Lewis.

“Beyond unfortunate,” added Joshua Rush, also with the Utah Democratic Party. “Friday, middle of the night, career politicians in our state legislature have blatantly ignored the fair maps drawn by the independent redistricting committee.”

The biggest problem they have with the new map is how the districts are divided in Salt Lake City.

The map divides up the city, as well as surrounding areas like Millcreek, into separate districts.

“Time and time again, this independent committee retained all of Salt Lake City proper in one district,” Rush said. “These maps split it four ways.”

Members of the Democratic Party say rural Utah might not have as strong of a voice.

“That just means we are going to get four representatives from the Wasatch Front, and I don’t think that offers rural Utah a voice," Rush said.

The Independent Redistricting Commission, which voters approved in 2018 when they passed Proposition 4, presented its maps to the Utah State Legislature Monday.

The three maps for congressional seats were met with overwhelming support by the public, but not as much enthusiasm from the legislative committee.

"It's not a pure process that some have indicated it is. There's bias in every map line you draw," said Sen. Scott Sandall (R-Tremonton).

Sandall, as well as House partner Rep. Paul Ray, put forward the new map late Friday night.

"After listening to Utahns and touring the state, Rep. Ray and I created maps that we believe incorporate the interests of all Utahns,” a statement from Sandall read. "The congressional map we propose has all four delegates representing both urban and rural parts of the state. We are one Utah and believe both urban and rural interests should be represented in Washington, D.C. by the entire federal delegation.”

A meeting is scheduled for Monday, where the legislature's redistricting committee will put forward those new maps to the public.

Gov. Spencer Cox is calling the legislature into special session the next day to approve all of those maps, including the school board, state Senate and state House.

READ: Here's what the Utah legislature will tackle in the special session

But Utah Democrats say they hope this latest map stops in its tracks.

“Bottom line… We cannot let Utahns bear the weight of this broken redistricting process,” Rush said. “That reflects the will of career politicians who want to choose their voters instead of the other way around.”

The Princeton Redistricting Project grades all redistricting around the country and has weighed in on all of Utah’s proposed maps.

Here are the results:

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All four of the proposals (three from the UIRC and one from the legislature's redistricting committee) got an “A” — the highest grade.

The only map anticipated NOT to have one district with a Democratic congressperson in Utah is the newest from the legislature's redistricting committee.