Hundreds of people show up to Utah Legislature to criticize state's proposed redistricting maps
Hundreds of people attended the Legislature’s meeting at the Utah State Capitol Monday evening to comment on the Legislative Redistricting Committee’s proposed maps.
State lawmakers released their suggested maps — Utah House and Senate, congressional and school board — late Friday night, giving the public roughly three days to comment on the newly drawn lines.
Online there have been over 800 comments on the maps.
All the maps received scrutiny from the public but one of the biggest points of contention was the congressional map that divided Salt Lake County into four districts. Under the proposed maps, parts of Salt Lake City would be in the same district as St. George, while parts would be grouped with Logan, and Provo would share a representative with Moab.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, co-chair of the Legislative Redistricting Committee said they decided to make some changes over the weekend after they received feedback. He presented a new map just as the meeting started showing San Juan County back into the 3rd district.
“We've made decisions that we think best reflect the will of the people that we are elected to represent,” Ray said. “So as we go into our congressional maps, understand the biggest population shifts happened in Utah County, and down in southern Utah and Washington counties.”
Many constituents took issue with lumping rural and urban areas together. A vast majority spoke in opposition of the maps from both sides of the aisle, with a handful praising lawmakers.
Several criticized the lack of transparency from drawing the maps to giving the public a short period of time to comment.
Joanne Slotnik, former executive director of the Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission said this process hasn’t been fair to voters.
“The legislative redistricting committee has been anything but procedurally fair in it’s mapmaking [process], releasing your data late on a Friday night less than four days before a final vote is not a fair process. Mapmaking out of the public eye with no articulated criteria is not a transparent process,” Slotnik said.
The state’s Independent Redistricting Commission presented their maps to the public last week. Many constituents in that hearing urged lawmakers to adopt the maps.
Earlier Monday, several community organizations and elected officials from across the state signed a statement about the redistricting maps. Salt Lake City councilmember Dan Dugan read part of the statement at the public hearing.
“If we truly want to be that “One Utah,” Dugan said, “which I think the Utahns behind me would agree. All communities deserve to be fairly represented at the Capitol. This proposal dilutes the voices of both the urban and the rural residents. It silences the communities of color, and it disenfranchises a majority of voters.”
In a memo of their findings, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project found the “cracking” of Salt Lake City eliminates political competition and divides a major community.
“Since the Salt Lake City community is cracked into four parts, each of which is deprived of political power,” the memo read. “In contrast, the commission’s maps keep the Salt Lake City area largely whole within one district.”
Still, the committee voted along party lines to adopt its congressional map.
The full Legislature will finalize the maps in a special session this week.