Judge rules Utah redistricting lawsuit can move forward

Oct 24, 2022, 9:54 PM | Updated: Nov 22, 2022, 11:22 pm

Attorney David Reymann speaks during a press conference to announce a lawsuit to block the state of...

Attorney David Reymann speaks during a press conference to announce a lawsuit to block the state of Utah from implementing the congressional redistricting map that passed the Legislature and to reinstate the independent redistricting committee and follow anti-gerrymandering requirements, outside of the Capitol in Salt Lake City on March 17. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A lawsuit asking the courts to overturn Utah’s new congressional map will move forward, after a judge on Monday denied several motions to dismiss the case by the Utah Legislature.

The lawsuit was filed in March in Utah’s 3rd Judicial District Court by the League of Women Voters and Mormon Women for Ethical Government. It alleges that the map approved by the Utah Legislature last year represents an “extreme partisan gerrymander” that undermines Utahns’ constitutional rights to meaningfully participate in elections.

The defendants filed several motions to dismiss the lawsuit in May, and their attorney argued in August that the proper forum to decide the issue is the political forum — through the Legislature and voters — rather than the courts.

Utah Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson are among the defendants named in the lawsuit.

Judge Dianna M. Gibson on Monday denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss four counts in the lawsuit, while granting the motion to dismiss the count of unauthorized repeal of Proposition 4 — a 2018 ballot initiative that created Utah’s Independent Redistricting Commission tasked with drawing the next set of political boundaries.

Under the ruling, the lawsuit will continue with counts of violating the Free Elections Clause, equal protection rights, free speech and association rights, and affirmative rights to vote.

Gibson also rejected motions to dismiss the “complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction” and to remove Sandall, Wilson, Adams and the Legislative Redistricting Committee as defendants.

“This decision means Utahns will finally and officially get their day in court, in spite of exhaustive attempts to delay justice,” said Katie Wright, executive director of Better Boundaries, which sponsored Proposition 4 in 2018, in a statement. “The extreme and egregious gerrymandering passed by our state Legislature will be on display when the court hears this case.”

“We are committed to the majority of Utah voters who demanded gerrymandering reform in 2018 and to the brave plaintiffs who reject having their voice and vote diluted by unfair maps,” she continued. “We continue to fight for transparency and accountability from our elected officials. We look forward to the day when Utah voters can finally pick their own politicians, not the other way around.”

Mormon Women for Ethical Government also celebrated the ruling. Communications specialist Laura Lewis Eyi said the group is “confident in our legal argument” and said they “look forward to moving forward with our case in court.”

“MWEG is dedicated to the idea that each of us has both the right and the responsibility to participate in government,” said Wendy Dennehy, senior director of advocacy, voting rights and ethics. “To do that, we need every vote to matter. Everything flows from that. We hope this litigation will make it possible for all Utahns to be able to cast votes that matter and are so glad that Judge Gibson is ruling in our favor.”

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Judge rules Utah redistricting lawsuit can move forward