Tooele says it's fast-growing but forgotten in redistricting

Sep 12 2011 - 11:01pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- Residents of one of Utah's fastest-growing counties expressed frustration Monday about an election boundary that could leave them without a state senator.

The Redistricting Committee approved a map of state Senate districts that splits Tooele County into two districts with incumbents from other counties, despite repeated pleas from residents and former legislators to draw a district wholly contained within the county.

Tooele is the seventh- largest county in the state and the third-fastest-growing in the state, with a 43-percent growth between 2000 and 2010.

"Until 10 years ago, Tooele had a sitting senator," said former state Rep. James Gowans, D-Tooele. "Now, we're one of the fastest- growing areas in the state, but it doesn't seem to make much difference."

The committee also approved a map for 75 state House seats. Most notably, two representatives who led the effort to pass strict immigration enforcement laws during this year's legislative session were combined into the same district.

The maps have to be approved by the full Legislature, which is scheduled to meet Oct. 3 to vote on the election boundaries proposed by the 18-member committee of lawmakers. The boundaries, based on numbers from the 2010 Census, will be in place for the next decade.

Committee co-chairman Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, said the maps will be "tweaked" as they move through the process.

Because of population growth in the southern Salt Lake suburbs and Utah County, the seven Senate districts in Salt Lake County represented by Democratic senators have to be collapsed into six districts. But Republicans made sure the west side of Salt Lake City, which is a strong Democratic area with a larger Hispanic population, was not combined into a district with the predominantly white and Republican suburbs north of Salt Lake City.

The committee needs to approve congressional districts. Population growth in the state means there are now four congressional districts instead of three.

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