Redistricting fun

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Once a decade, the Utah legislature is Constitutionally charged with redrawing political boundaries. Populations shift, grow, shrink or stay the same and the new lines must be redrawn to encompass even numbers in each district. For example, the Eagle Mountain/Saratoga Springs area saw such large amounts of growth that the 90,000+ people living within the current district were almost enough people to completely populate 3 entire House districts with the new map.

A 19-member bipartisan, bicameral redistricting committee started meeting almost as soon as the legislature adjourned in March. They represent all geographic areas of the state and have held meetings all over the state, asking for and taking public input. Revolutionary software allowed members of the public to draw their own maps and submit them. RedistrictUtah.com saw hundreds of maps submitted by people who took the time to draw a school district map, a House map, a Senate map or a Congressional map – or many of them. Utah is one of only three states that offered that type of unprecedented input. We saw maps that were labeled donuts, pizza, layered cake or hats with stripes and many others.

As the summer went on, dozens of meetings were held, with public comment offered at each one and over 1000 comments left on the map-making site. Maps changed, changed and changed again as members of communities spoke up and gave their input. With the advent of Google Earth, boundary outlines were carefully followed to ensure that homes were not bisected (and a number of them were). Where ever possible, city and county lines were held whole. Some areas lost population and districts had to collapsed. We have several districts across the state where two Republican incumbents will be living in the same district. Those include Representative Lee Perry and Rep Brad Galvez in the north, Reps Kiser and Christensen in Salt Lake County and Reps Herrod and Sandstrom in Utah county. Two Democrats are now in the same district – Rep Doughty, who replaced Rep Jackie Biskupski, and Rep Litvack, the House minority leader. One Republican lawmaker – Rep Fred Cox – will face a Democrat, Rep Janice Fisher. In the end, the House map that was adopted Monday night is the result of hundreds of hours of work and compromise on all sides. I do not know of a single Representative who thinks their district is perfect in every way, but in the end, it passed with kudos from both parties and a nearly unanimous vote. The Senate map was the same way.

That leaves only the Congressional map. It seems that dozens of maps have been submitted and discussed. When new variations of maps have been submitted, they have been discussed in committee hearings, in halls and on comment boards. As new variations of those maps came out on Tuesday, the House insisted they have more public vetting. Tomorrow, the redistricting committee meets again. Please go, or listen in at le.Utah.gov and give us your input. This is a big deal. We want to get it right. (But we also know that no matter what map is adopted, a lawsuit will be filed.)

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10 Responses to “Redistricting fun”

  1. Sue Connor Says:

    “Revolutionary software allowed members of the public to draw their own maps and submit them… RedistrictUtah.com saw hundreds of maps submitted by people…Utah is one of only three states that offered that type of unprecedented input.”

    All correct facts, BUT what’s missing is the $1 million dollar taxpayer bill for these services and a result of 3 maps so far, and likely a fourth Congressional map on 10/17, created by the GOP RD Committee and legislature, NOT by a citizen, or an independent commission and not reflecting at least 50% – 70% of the public feedback received with these “revolutionary” and expensive tools!

    I witnessed all “doughnut hole” maps proposed by citizens fail by straight party votes at RD Committee meetings, and only GOP maps make the final cut for US Congressional districts. Then the GOP infighting began and new maps were being created in a 48 hour frenzy by the GOP legislature as a whole with NO concern for public input.

    I will still be present 10/7 for the RD Committee mtg, and again on 10/17, but clearly PUBLIC INPUT is not a priority to our current legislators even though they were elected by us to represent us!

    Demand you money back or at least don’t let them applaud themselves for the “unprecedented’ job they did listening to he public!

  2. Curt Bentley Says:

    So far, the public input and comment process has worked well for 3 out of the 4 maps. The congressional map was always going to be the hard one, and I’m glad you guys are taking the time necessary to make sure you get a good end result.

    At the risk of continuing to sound like a broken record, I’ll push, what is, to me, far and away the best map submitted so far: The Garber map.

    http://www.redistrictutah.com/maps/u-s-congressional-6-finalists/congress-david-edward-garber-%E2%80%9Cgarber-cds-d%E2%80%9D

    This one is really good. The existing population deviations can be minimized. It deserves serious consideration.

  3. Larry Jensen Says:

    It looks like there are several, similar congressional maps the meet the objective of a rural/urban mix. They also look equally competitive at first glance. They should be able to settle on one the next time they meet.

  4. Larry Jensen Says:

    The map submitted by Rep King (Dem)SB3002S07 is very close to the Garber map. They seem to be the simplest, geographically. Are legislators giving serious consideration to those?

  5. Joni Crane Says:

    I love this article Holly, you really laid out how no stone has been left unturned and it is such an irony that anyone could say their voice was not heard in this process, when maps like the Maryland redistricting map show how unfair redistricting can be. Our legislators have gone up and above their responsibility to listen. Kudos to all of you. Now let’s finish this up!

  6. Jacob Says:

    What is the purpose of an urban/rural mix, other than to minimize the impact of urban voters?

  7. Larry Jensen Says:

    No, that’s not the purpose. In my personal opinion, the purpose is for rural Utahns to have four (4) advocates for their interests in Washington instead of just one and for all four (4) of Utah’s Congressmen to have a stake in Salt Lake County. Why?… Because of Salt Lake’s important roles as the cultural, political and economic hub of the mountain west )and the flagship city of a worldwide church). But back to your first point and again in my opinion, Utah benefits by not allowing Salt Lake to become part of the Democrat’s “Urban Archipelago.” For more information on the Democrat vision for America’s cities (like Salt Lake) here’s a good read http://www.urbanarchipelago.com/

  8. Jacob Says:

    Larry,
    So why have districts at all? If the purpose is to have each district be a representation of Utah, why not just have statewide races?

    To this point:
    “Utah benefits by not allowing Salt Lake to become part of the Democrat’s “Urban Archipelago.””

    Kudos to you for your honesty. As a republican, I see where you are coming from, but might does not make right. Just because we CAN suppress their representation, does not mean we should. This is another example of our republican leaders not caring what the public thinks.

    Dam the torpedoes and full steam ahead!

  9. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    Both the Libertarian party of Utah and the Constitution party in Utah support multi party reform. Lets have multi-winner districts or some form of distributed vote and achieve full representation, would eliminate the whole “redistricting” issue all together! Hell even IRV/AVT+ would be huge step forward in this area, Mr. Wimmer talked about instant runoff voting.

  10. JJL9 Says:

    No matter what map is adopted, someone will want a different map and will cry foul.

    I have heard Governor Herbert and many of the legislators discuss the importance of the urban/rural mix because they believe the “federal lands” issues are of vital importance and they want all four congressmen to have an interest in the lands issues.

    This is not a principled objective. In other words, they would “rig’ the districts because this issue is important to them, and therefore they want it to be important to all of the congressmen.

    To be honest I can’t imagine what the objective, principled method of redistricting would be, except perhaps to allow a computer program to simply make logical, geographic boundaries based on population.

    I guess my point is that while the “pizza slice” agenda is not necessarily objective or principled, neither would the “donut hole” agenda be.

    Since the legislature is tasked with the redistricting process, untlimately we just have to accept whatever the outcome is.

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