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Politics & Government

How Two Key Differences Between Utah’s Redistricting Groups Could Play A Role In Drawing New Maps

A photo of ballot drop-off boxes.
Renee Bright
/
KUER
The independent commission’s maps are suggestions and the state Legislature will ultimately decide what the state’s new political districts will look like.

Utah’s Independent Redistricting Commission and the Legislature’s Redistricting Committee are gearing up to draw new districts for Congress, the state school board and the state House and Senate.

The independent commission’s maps are suggestions and the state Legislature will ultimately decide what the districts will look like.

There are two key differences in how the two groups will approach the process.

Where Do Incumbents Live?

The independent commission isn’t legally allowed to consider where current public officials live when drawing their suggested maps. Because of that, two incumbents could accidentally end up in the same district.

“The argument against looking at where incumbents live is that you don't want the legislators choosing who votes them in,” said Rex Facer, chair of the commission. “At the same time, we don't want to necessarily see huge disruptions.”

But the legislative group can look at where incumbents live.

“If we're going to allow the public to draw these maps, we feel it's important that they understand where the elected officials live,” said committee co-chair Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton. “If they really like that person, they can draw and submit a map that keeps them in their district. If they don't like that person, they can draw and submit a map that moves to somewhere else.”

Communities of Interest

“Communities of interest” refers to “geographical areas, such as neighborhoods of a city or regions of a state, where the residents have common political interests that do not necessarily coincide with the boundaries of a political subdivision, such as a city or county.”

According to Facer, examples could include Salt Lake City’s Rose Park neighborhood or a Tongan community that mostly lives in one area.

The independent commission will be examining communities of interest when drawing its suggested maps. Residents can submit them online, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll all stay intact.

“What we often hear is that the communities of interest have similar needs, and having them represented by a single person helps represent their needs a unified voice,” Facer said, “Where if you split those up, it could be that what is enough to have a strong voice gets diluted … among your different districts.”

The legislative committee voted not to use communities of interest as a guide when drawing the maps.

“We'd like to be able to use it,” Sandall said. “But we couldn't use it because we can't define it. There's as many definitions as there are people.”

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