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Gov. Herbert Lukewarm On Redistricting Ballot Initative

Julia Ritchey, KUER
Gov. Herbert speaks to reporters during his monthly news conference at KUED on July 27, 2017.

Gov. Gary Herbert says he thinks a new ballot initiative to reform Utah’s redistricting process is worth considering, but isn’t ready to throw his support behind it.

Herbert weighed in on the proposed independent redistricting commission Thursday during his monthly news conference at KUED.

He said the trick to creating such a body would be ensuring its impartiality.  

“I think it’s worth having the discussion…if you can truly get it independent," he said.  "Somebody has to make the appointment, and so you want to make sure when the appointment’s made that that’s an independent review…or  else you can have it just as biased as if you let the legislature do it."

The Better Boundaries Campaign is being spearheaded by former Salt Lake City mayor Ralph Becker and other local leaders who believe the state’s redistricting process has become overly partisan and anti-competitive.

If approved by voters, the initiative would create a bipartisan commission to oversee and propose electoral boundaries during the next redistricting in 2020. The commission would be made up of three Democrats, three Republicans and one appointee by the governor. 

The state legislature would still have the ultimate say on whether to accept the new maps.

Herbert says he’s not yet ready to say if he would vote for it himself, but thinks the outcome will likely still yield majority control to Republicans.

“Again, Utah, by registered voters, is pretty Republican,” he said. “So no matter how you slice the pie, as you in fact create districts, it’s pretty hard not to have a Republican district.”

Organizers of the campaign need to collect 113,000 signatures before April of next year to qualify for the ballot.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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