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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.

Salt Lake County split into four congressional districts in legislative committee’s proposed maps

Lee Hale
Utah’s legislative redistricting committee released its proposed maps late Friday night.

The Utah Legislative Redistricting Committee released its proposed maps late Friday night. Salt Lake County was split into four congressional districts, which is perhaps the most controversial part of the proposal — the current congressional map splits it into three districts.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, along with 11 city mayors, asked the state to only put the county in two districts. Salt Lake County is the state’s only democratic power base, and the map ensures no congressional districts will lean left.

Under that proposal, part of Salt Lake City would be in the same congressional district as St. George while Provo would be grouped with Moab.

"After listening to Utahns and touring the state, Rep. [Paul] Ray and I created maps that we believe incorporate the interests of all Utahns,” said Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, co-chair of the committee. “The congressional map we propose has all four delegates representing both urban and rural parts of the state.”

Utah Democrats released a statement saying the reason the legislative committee released their maps so late was because “they’re ashamed.” Democrats also took issue with Salt Lake County being split into four, saying Republicans “are seeking to ensure that all four of Utah’s congress members will have no ability to truly serve their constituents”

“It’s undemocratic, and it’s exactly what we expected,” said Utah Democratic Party Acting Chair Diane Lewis. “Republicans are ignoring the will of the people in search of silencing Utahns for ten more years. The only way to stop these maps is Utahns banding together to force Speaker Brad Wilson and his caucus of unlistening legislators to hear us at the hearings on Monday at 3 p.m. at the Capitol and virtually.”

Better Utah commented on the maps on Twitter saying they are “clearly subpar” compared to the state’s independent redistricting commission. However, that group’s maps are just advisory.

Lawmakers took a set of maps from the advisory Independent Redistricting Commission under consideration, but ended up with a congressional map that looked very different. All of the independent commission’s maps included one district that leans democratic and were given an “A” grade for “partisan fairness” by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.

The draft maps from the legislative committee for the state Senate earned an “A” for “partisan fairness” from the group. The draft House map received a “B” from the Princeton group.

Local leaders in Moab had asked lawmakers not to split the city into two House districts, arguing that it dilutes their voice and was unnecessary. The proposed maps show lawmakers listened as Moab is full in House district 73.

The legislative committee didn’t release its maps until late Friday night. That led to Better Utah calling the process “horrible.”

“Lawmakers released the maps on Friday night. People have only one chance to comment on them,” the group tweeted. “The maps will be voted upon within the next two weeks but they’ll impact our lives for 10 years.”

Utahns can weigh in on the maps during a committee hearing Monday afternoon or by contacting their legislators. The full Legislature will finalize the maps in a special session starting Tuesday.

Updated: November 8, 2021 at 11:26 AM MST
This story has been updated to include new grades from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and clarify that Salt Lake City would also be split.

Updated: November 7, 2021 at 12:57 PM MST
This story has been updated to include the response from the Utah Democratic Party.
Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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