Have a say in Utah’s political redistricting this Friday at Ecker Hill Middle School
Utah’s Legislative Redistricting Committee will be hearing input at Ecker Hill Middle School this Friday.
Redistricting, when the boundaries for congress, the state legislature, and school board are redrawn, happens once every 10 years after the U.S. census. The last redistricting took place after the 2010 census, and redistricting is happening again right now.
In 2018, Utah voters narrowly passed Proposition 4, which created an independent redistricting commission to help draw Utah’s next legislative maps. Previously, the redistricting process had been solely in the hands of state lawmakers. A compromise was reached in early 2020 between Prop 4 organizers and the state legislature. That gave final approval of legislative maps to the legislature’s redistricting committee, but allowed for an independent bipartisan commission that would recommend maps, but have no oversight or authority.
Proposition 4 was aimed at curbing gerrymandering, which is when legislative boundaries are drawn in a way that deliberately advantages or disadvantages a certain group of voters.
The legislature’s redistricting committee will hold a public meeting this Friday at Ecker Hill Middle School near Pinebrook. The meeting starts at 6pm.
Katie Wright is the executive director of Better Boundaries, a statewide nonprofit that was behind Prop 4. She said the independent commission is drawing maps that adhere to the constitutional requirement of each district containing an equal number of people, while also deliberately keeping cities and counties together and respecting neighborhoods and communities that have similar interests. The legislative committee must keep the population of the districts similar, but is not required to adhere to the other standards.
Wright said Friday’s meeting is an opportunity to let state lawmakers know the public is paying attention.
“The legislative redistricting committee has to follow constitutional law, as does the independent, of one person, one vote,” said Wright. “They follow keeping population fairly similar, but they don’t have to follow these other standards. I encourage people to show up at the meeting, look at their existing districts, give feedback about how they would like to see them look in the future, but also, if you see the value in the independent commission, say that.”
Even though the legislative committee is not required to adopt any of the maps proposed by the independent commission, Wright said small changes could still be something to recognize.
“The important thing to remember is redistricting is so fundamental to representation that even if we have incremental change, say a few of the maps of the commission are adopted, that could have a huge impact on people really knowing that my representative knows my concerns and voices them at the state level or even the federal level,” Wright said.
Wright gave credit in part to the independent commission’s work and public interest in the process, and said progress has already been made with how state legislators are looking at this year’s process.
“Already we’re seeing positive change,” she said. “At the legislative committee, they are not held to the standards of the independent commission, and yet, as you watch and listen to public dialogue, the standards that the independent commission is held to, keeping cities intact, counties intact, communities of interest, are the dialogue between the state lawmakers and the public. We’re already seeing sort of a shift in the perspective of how redistricting should be done.”
Utah’s new district maps are scheduled to be finalized ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
More information on Better Boundaries can be found here.
The independent redistricting commission here.
The legislature’s redistricting committee here.