Some Provo residents share concerns about their neighborhoods being preserved in Utah’s redistricting process
Some Provo residents are concerned Utah’s redistricting process won't honor the city's neighborhood boundaries. They spoke up about it during a meeting held by the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission at the Provo Recreation Center on Friday
This is the first year Utah is having a bipartisan group listen to citizen input and propose new district maps to the Legislature. The commission is also tasked with preserving "communities of interests," but state statute doesn't define what exactly that means.
Provo is divided into 34 neighborhoods that are split between five areas. Each one has its own elected chairperson that conducts neighborhood meetings.
Some of those neighborhoods are currently split between different state House and Senate districts like North Park. There, the east side is in House District 61 and State District 15, but the west side is in House District 63 and Senate District 16.
Daniel Craig Friend is a Provo resident and attended Friday’s meeting.
"Our neighborhood program is old, it goes back years," Friend said. "They're very much the definition of a community of interest and ought to be preserved."
Rex Facer, chair of the commission, said every district needs to have roughly the same number of people. Since Utah County is one of the largest counties in the state, Facer said Provo will need to be split between multiple state House and Senate districts.
But Friend said it is possible to equally split up the districts without dividing up Provo's neighborhoods. He has submitted multiple maps to the commission showing how he thinks it could be done.
Martha Winsor has lived in Provo since 1991. She said she is worried about preserving the neighborhoods, but also gerrymandering.
Jacob Rugh, a sociology professor at BYU, said specifically with Congressional districts, he isn't too concerned about gerrymandering in Utah County because while some voting precincts turned blue in the 2020 election, the county as a whole is still overwhelmingly Republican.
"I wouldn't expect that in Utah County,” Rugh said. “No matter how the boundaries are drawn, that wouldn't influence much. I think what matters the most is how Salt Lake County is divided up."
The independent commission will submit their map recommendations to the state Legislature in November, before the Legislature makes the final decision.