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Utah is embarking on a once-in-a-decade process of redrawing political maps. The state Legislature will decide what the districts for Congress, the state school board, House and Senate will look like, with input from the Independent Redistricting Commission.KUER is asking listeners what questions they have about the process.Leave us a message at (801) 609-1163.

Utah’s only Black legislator wants people of color to ‘keep pushing’ and speak up during the state’s redistricting process

A photo of lawmakers sitting at a table at a redistricting committee hearing.
Emily Means
Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, is on the Legislature’s redistricting committee. The committee held a hearing in September in Salt Lake City’s Rose Park neighborhood, which is part of Hollins’ district.

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An analysis of recent census data shows more than half of Utah’s growth over the last decade came from racial and ethnic minorities, and nearly 25% of Utahns identify that way.

Ernie Gamonal, with the Latino civil rights organization Utah Coalition of La Raza, said that’s one reason why he is exclusively focusing his attention on redistricting this year.

“I think that our biggest goal is to try to bring the people out, to get our voices heard, our communities recognized, so that our communities are not divided and diluted,” Gamonal said.

Utah Coalition of La Raza has been working with other advocacy organizations to translate redistricting information into Spanish as well as hosting trainings to show people how to participate.

Richard Jaramillo, president of the coalition, said there have been many barriers to getting the public to engage in the redistricting process.

“First and foremost is just the technical nature of redistricting,” Jaramillo said. “To be able to draw maps and look at census data. It is not a simple issue. It is not a sexy issue whatsoever.”

Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, is one of two lawmakers on the Legislature’s redistricting committee who identify as a racial or ethnic minority — out of 20 members.

Hollins also represents one of the most diverse House districts in the Legislature.

She said many people of color already feel disenfranchised, but she’s still encouraging them to speak up.

“You cannot just sit on the sidelines and say, ‘My voice [doesn’t] matter,’” Hollins said. “It’s up to you to keep pushing and talking about what is important to you. Because if you don't do it, someone who may not share your values … they're going to be the loudest voice at the table.”

The next legislative redistricting commission meeting is Oct. 13 in Clearfield in Davis County.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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