Utah's redistricting maps making progress

Oct 3 2011 - 11:52pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- After several closed caucus meetings, the House reconvened at 7 p.m. Monday and approved the state House redistricting map, 74-1, with a standing ovation.

It goes before the Senate today for further consideration.

The House approved new boundaries that divide Syracuse only twice, instead of four times, as had been proposed last week.

The map pushes the district Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, represents into Syracuse.

The district of Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, covers Clinton and West Point.

Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville, who served on the redistricting committee, said the boundaries were moved to put 1,000 Syracuse residents back with the rest of Syracuse.

Syracuse is already divided between two representatives.

Rep. Kenneth Sumsion, R-American Fork, said that, while serving as co-chairman of the redistricting committee, he heard from many people. All, including residents from Box Elder, Weber, Davis and Morgan counties, said they want "their representative to be their neighbor."

Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, said the map is something Utahns can live with for the next 10 years.

Weber County does lose one seat in the House.

Each district had to have just more than 36,000 people in it. The largest district has 24 more people in it than the average district, while the smallest district has 22 fewer people, said Majority Leader Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace.

Minority Leader Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, said the redistricting process has been fair and has taken the public's opinions into account.

Meanwhile, the Senate approved, 18-9, the boundaries for four congressional seats, but not without controversy. It also passed the proposed map for the 29 state Senate seats.

Both maps go before the House for further consideration.

The new congressional districts put rural and urban areas together, which concerns some Utahns, including Bountiful resident David Irvine.

He represents the Utah Citizens Council, a nonprofit organization that has joined with other organizations and has offered legislators other proposals with different boundaries.

Irvine said he is concerned mainly about the proposed congressional redistricting map, which "lumps Bountiful, Woods Cross and North Salt Lake in a huge district."

"It makes the votes as meaningless as votes from Salt Lake County. We will be a permanent minority," he said.

The three Davis County cities should stay with other urban areas and not be part of a rural district, Irvine said.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said before the Senate vote that the congressmen will represent all of Utah, not just one area.

Earlier Monday, more than 100 protesters gathered in the Utah Capitol rotunda in the hopes that legislators would listen to their concerns about proposals for redistricting congressional and state seats.

The rally was held while legislators met in closed caucus meetings, after starting the special session one hour late, to discuss the proposed maps.

Chants of "Just vote no" echoed through the Capitol.

Protesters were upset with the proposed boundaries, claiming legislators are trying to shut out many constituents, such as Democrats and minorities.

The Utah State Democratic Committee put legislators and the governor's office on notice that litigation concerning the redistricting process is a possibility.

Legislators and staff were warned by the legislative general counsel "not to delete, alter or destroy any paper, electronic or other record relating to redistricting or potential redistricting lawsuits."

Legislators reconvened in the afternoon to discuss and approve boundary lines for state seats, congressional seats and the state Board of Education.

The Senate finished its business by 4 p.m.

The House recessed several times and met again at 7 p.m.

Legislators plan to meet again today.

Gov. Gary Herbert called for Monday's special session. Redistricting happens every 10 years after the census count. Utah's population has grown enough that it received one extra seat for Congress.

Legislators have met since April and have held public hearings across the state to receive input on proposed boundaries.

Learn more

To see maps, go to redistrictutah.com.

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