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Utah lawmakers begin voting on new legislative maps

Utah State Legislature
Utah is getting new voting maps this year, a once-a-decade process.

The Utah Legislature cast its first votes for new legislative maps today, but the process is not over yet.

State lawmakers began a special session on Tuesday with the House voting to approve a new congressional map, and the Senate voting on a state school board map.

The senate vote was along party lines, 23-6 in favor of the school board map, with all six Democrats in opposition.

In the house, the vote for the congressional map was 50-22, with several Republicans joining the Democrats against the bill.

The maps will be sent to the opposite chambers for final approval.

Legislative and school board maps were drawn by the legislature’s redistricting committee, as well as an independent commission and members of the public. The legislature doesn’t have to accept maps made by an independent body.

House Speaker Brad Wilson, a Republican representing Davis County, reinforced his position on the legislature’s role at the opening of the session on Tuesday.

“Both the U.S. Constitution and the Utah Constitution designate that this authority rests with the state legislature and no one else," he said. "As the elected representatives of the people, the legislature is best positioned to ultimately take on that responsibility.”

In 2018, Utah voters approved the formation of the independent commission, but its power was later limited by a bill passed in early 2020.

After the house passed the congressional map, minority leader Brian King, a Democrat representing Salt Lake City and a portion of Summit County, issued a statement critical of the map and the voting process, saying it was passed after only 10 minutes of debate. He added:

“I was happy to see members of both parties vote against it. And I was troubled to see debate cut off before all three Utah Independent Redistricting Commission maps were presented by the Democrats for debate. Those maps were fairer to both urban and rural Utahns. I’m disappointed that our action in passing the Congressional map ignored and disrespected the will of the people.”

Both the congressional and state school board maps must be approved by each house. The legislature has yet to vote on new maps for state house and senate districts. If approved, all maps head to the Governor’s office for final approval or veto.

The special session continues on Wednesday.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.