Utah redistricting: Lawmakers select their own maps over independent ones

Nov 8, 2021, 11:26 PM | Updated: Nov 9, 2021, 5:25 am

SALT LAKE CITY — The Legislative Redistricting Committee has voted in favor of their own maps over those created by the Independent Redistricting Commission.

Lawmakers and a large crowd of people debated the options in a meeting on Capitol Hill Monday, which lasted just over five hours.

Dozens spoke against the congressional map the committee released late Friday night, while a few spoke in favor.

“The blatant tearing apart of Salt Lake County into four congressional districts and the disenfranchisement of minority voters does not demonstrate impartial decision making,” a public commenter said. “You have created a firestorm of opposition by treating the voters of Utah with disrespect.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to say that you guys didn’t come out and listen. I just don’t know that you listened well. So, that’s something that we have to consider,” another commenter said during the meeting. “I’m hopeful you’ll be listening to us today.”

“We want to know who drew the maps, what outside groups were consulted and what was the rationale for the decision. Additionally, there has not been adequate time for the public to both view these maps and comment on the committee’s decisions,” said a third public commenter.

“And this map represents rural as well as urban, and we’re thankful for the things that you guys have put forward and all the work you’ve done,” said another.

The passionate and sometimes boisterous audience filled up the main committee room and two overflow rooms, and hundreds also watched online.

One of the main complaints was that rural Utah is overrepresented in the congressional map and that urban areas are being split up, especially Salt Lake County.

They also accused lawmakers on the committee of gerrymandering.

Earlier in the afternoon, various groups sent an open letter to the Legislature and Gov. Spencer Cox, urging them to approve the maps from the independent commission.

“I was born and raised in Utah. I’m a wife, a mother, a Latina, and a life-long conservative. The Independent Redistricting Commission’s process has been wholly transparent and we call on the state legislature to adopt their maps,” said Melarie Wheat with the group Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

When the committee chairs released their maps on Friday, they said they believe both urban and rural interests should be represented by the entire federal delegation.

They said they created their maps after listening to Utahns and touring the state.

At the end of the night, the committee voted on the four maps they wanted in the first place.

Utah lawmakers will continue to discuss redistricting during a special legislative session Tuesday.

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Utah redistricting: Lawmakers select their own maps over independent ones