New Census data might mean cuts to the number of Democrats in the Utah Legislature.The data suggest at least one Democratic Senate district and two Democratic House districts will have to be merged to account for population gains in Republican districts, according to an analysis published Monday by The Salt Lake Tribune.
Legislators will use the Census numbers when they begin redrawing election boundaries in the upcoming months.
Overall, Utah's population grew to 2.7 million, up from 2.3 million in the 2000 Census. The most significant growth occurred in Republican strongholds, especially Utah County, suburban Salt Lake County and Washington County in southern Utah.
Based on the new numbers, each of the 29 state Senate districts will have about 95,000 residents and each of the 75 state House districts will have about 37,000 residents.
Combined, the seven Senate districts held by Democrats fall about 100,000 people short of population requirements. The combined 17 Democratic House districts fall about 80,000 people shy.
Most of the Democratic districts are in Salt Lake City or central Salt Lake County. When lines are redrawn, those areas likely will have fewer districts.
Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said the population changes should not immediately mean the elimination of a Democrat. Instead, he wants lines drawn to make more districts competitive.
House Minority Assistant Whip Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said some Democratic seats will probably be consolidated.
"That doesn't mean we will lose seats," King said. "That depends on the results of the next election."
Republicans have a 58-17 majority in the House and a 22-7 majority in the Senate.