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Utah Lawmakers Say They Welcome Public Participation As The Redistricting Process Begins

A photo of Paul Ray and Scott Sandall.
Emily Means
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, and Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, gave reporters an update on the redistricting process Wednesday. They said they expected to have the process finalized by Thanksgiving.

The coronavirus pandemic has set Utah’s redistricting process back — a lot.

“We're basically doing what would typically take us six to eight months [in] six to eight weeks,” said Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield.

Ray is one of the lawmakers heading up the Utah Legislature’s redistricting committee. During a news conference on Wednesday, Ray and co-chair Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, said they intend to finalize the redistricting plans by Thanksgiving.

However, they’re still waiting on the census data they need in order to make changes to the state’s Congressional, legislative and school board districts. They said they expect the data will arrive in late August.

While the timeline is much more condensed than usual, Sandall said that transparency and public input are still important.

He said they’re making an effort to listen — though not everyone may feel heard.

“This isn't about trying to please everyone,” Sandall said. “It’s trying to be fair and balanced because, simply, you can't please everyone in this process.”

Meanwhile, a newly formed independent redistricting commission will have a say in the process for the first time. It was created in 2018 after voters passed a ballot initiative in an effort to address accusations of partisan gerrymandering of the voting district maps.

Ray stressed that the new commission will have an advisory role, and it’s ultimately the Legislature’s responsibility to create the new districts.

He said he can’t guarantee the Legislature will take the independent commission’s recommendation.

“I would absolutely love to use one of their maps, but they're going to have to submit a map that works,” he said.

The legislative committee plans to start traveling across the state in September to hold hearings and a listening tour on redistricting. The general public can also participate by drawing their own maps for consideration.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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