Utah’s Independent Redistricting Commission presented their maps to the Legislature. Now, their fate is in lawmakers’ hands
Utah lawmakers and members of the Independent Redistricting Commission agree on at least one thing — redrawing the state’s voting boundaries is really hard.
“I learned a long time ago that politics is the art of compromise,” said commissioner and former Republican State Sen. Lyle Hillyard. “You have to work out something that not everybody is going to be pleased with.”
The state’s new commission presented its maps to legislators Monday. Over the course of the four-hour hearing, they walked their Legislative counterparts through their public engagement and mapmaking processes.
That was especially important after former Commissioner Rob Bishop and House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville cast doubt on the group’s work last week.
Commissioner Christine Durham, a former Utah Supreme Court Justice, stressed that if anyone had any questions about the group’s actions, they can find everything they need to know by watching hundreds of hours of live-streamed videos.
“You can actually listen to what those [mapmaking] teams and their members were thinking about as they were doing their drafting, trying to figure out where to draw the lines, taking into consideration the criteria that the commission devised to guide our work,” Durham said.
The commission presented 12 maps — three options each for the Congressional, state Senate, House and school board districts.
One of the Congressional maps they chose was submitted by a member of the public.
Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, a co-chair of the Legislative committee, noted the maker of the map used a tool that accounted for partisan data.
Sandall told reporters after the meeting it was important for him to point out.
“The standard that the commission has presented has been one of complete independence,” Sandall said. “But yet they adopt a map … that was drawn on a tool that includes political data. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you’ve got to own up to that.”
Commission Chair Rex Facer said they didn’t consider any of that data when evaluating the map.
Dozens of people showed up to give public comments, with most asking the committee to adopt the maps — including a number of people from the Diné Nation.
Davina Smith from San Juan County said she was representing folks from her community who couldn’t be there.
“It's really hard to sit here and ... to beg before white men,” Smith said. “I care about our fair district maps, and I want my community to have a voice. So I ask that you adopt the maps drawn by the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission.”
The commission only advises the state Legislature — which means the lawmakers can take or leave the maps.
Facer said it would be great if they did, but more importantly, he hoped the commission would be around for the next redistricting a decade from now.
“I think the work of the commission has been productive,” Facer said. “What truly would be offensive is if this work didn't go forward.”
The Legislative Redistricting Committee is scheduled to vote on their final maps next Monday — just one day before the full Legislature is set to start considering those maps during a special session.