SALT LAKE CITY -- Republican lawmakers met behind closed doors Monday to finalize redistricting maps that will be in place for the next decade.
Congressional and legislative maps were still being adjusted as this week's special session of the Legislature began, prompting GOP leaders to retreat to party caucuses during the morning session to resolve the lingering issues.
A sticking point for congressional districts is the need for greater rural representation in every district. Republican lawmakers have consistently argued against having any districts comprised solely of urban voters because the state runs the risk of having a congressman or congresswoman who ignores rural issues.
The federal government owns more than 75 percent of land in some of Utah's least-populated counties.
Democrats contend the public lands issue is a smoke-screen to divide Democratic-leaning Salt Lake County, home to more than a third of the state's 2.8 million people.
During a midday rally in the state Capitol rotunda Monday, Democratic leaders and groups affiliated with a push for a non-partisan redistricting committee criticized Republicans for hijacking the process.
The rally of about 100 people included boisterous chants and fiery speakers who decried the map as driven by partisanship instead of equality.
"This congressional map is simply un-American," Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said. "It's splitting our communities, dividing neighborhoods and breaks the long-held tradition of fairness and common sense in American government."
Josh Loftin can be reached at http://twitter.com/joshloftin.