How should Moab be represented in the state Legislature? Residents weigh in at Legislative Redistricting Committee hearing
Moab is split down the middle into two different state House districts. Some city residents told the Legislative Redistricting Committee at a public hearing Wednesday night that doesn’t make sense.
“Moab got split down the middle, which would be understandable if it was a big metropolis whose population was a large percentage of a house district,” said Grand County Commissioner Kevin Walker. “But in fact, it's a small town surrounded by empty public lands.”
There are several towns and cities on the Wasatch Front that are split into more than one House district.
Walker said the Moab split dilutes the town’s voice and makes it harder for them to advocate for themselves in the state Legislature.
“We're a very small percentage of communities that are very distant from us [all represented by the same person],” he said. “Sometimes our legislators do things for us out of the goodness of their heart, but they have no electoral reason to do us any favors because they can easily win no matter how people in Grand County vote.”
The committee is in the process of drawing district maps for Congress as well as the state House, Senate and School Board based on the latest census data. They have to make all districts contain roughly the same amount of people.
Committee Chair Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, said he'd like to put Moab into one House district, but he doesn’t know if it’s possible.
“I think it is a very plausible idea,” he said. “But whether or not that fits in the population distribution in this corner of the state … it's probably too early to try to determine that.”
Who does Moab belong with?
If lawmakers are able to put the city in a single district, there aren’t enough people that live there for Moab to have its own district. The Grand County Commission said it should be grouped with northern San Juan County.
Sam Van Wetter, a Moab resident and organizer with the Rural Utah Project, agreed.
“As anyone who lives here knows we are ostensibly the same town,” Van Wetter said. “It doesn't feel like you're leaving town when you arrive in San Juan County, and we should be represented as such.”
But Monticello city councilwoman Kim Henderson said she’d rather share a district with the counties to the west of her — Wayne, Piute and Garfield — like she does now.
“San Juan County, in a lot of ways, if not the majority of ways, is very different from Grand County,” she said. “I feel like Moab very much likes the growth that the national monuments bring in and they promote that. But as other rural communities, we've seen how that can negatively impact our community. And we don't want to follow suit … I don't prefer living the urban lifestyle. And I feel like Moab has become very urbanized.”
The Legislative Redistricting Committee, and the Independent Redistricting Commission, are in the middle of a statewide listening tour. The independent commission is advisory and lawmakers will make the final decision. Legislators expect to meet with the commission in early November and go into a special session of the full Legislature later that month to vote on the maps.