Residents get their say on redistricting

Jul 13 2011 - 11:41pm

OGDEN -- The debate began in Weber County on Wednesday evening about whether to blend districts into Davis and Morgan counties, or keep as many within Weber as they can.

Utah is in the middle of drawing new congressional, Senate, House and school district lines to accommodate changes in population since the 2000 Census. Once population shifts are accounted for, Weber County could lose the equivalent of half a seat in the Utah House of Representatives to ensure that each district represents an equal number of voters.

Utah State lawmakers and legislative staff presented how they might draw the new lines at a public meeting in Ben Lomond High School on Wednesday.

In order to keep the seven districts that include Weber County, a proposal from the Utah House of Representatives would shift several district boundaries. Harrisville would be moved from District 7 into District 8, Pleasant View would be moved from District 6 into District 7 and Roy would move from District 12 into District 9. But what was contentious at the public meeting was the proposed crossing of county lines: District 12 would include Clinton, which is in Davis County, and District 8 would include part of Morgan County, primarily Mountain Green.

"I would like to see as much as possible for districts to stop at county lines," said Marilyn O'Dell, who lives in Ogden.

James Humphreys, who also lives in Ogden, feels the same way. With districts crossing county lines, the state has more power and influence than the county in the caucus and delegate system, he said.

More power at the county level would not only improve local control, it would do more to encourage voter participation, he said. Several members of the public who attended the meeting preferred that their votes go toward a representative who is weighing their interests alone, not against the interests of a newly divided area.

But Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, who represents District 8, said anyone can draw lines within their county and make a perfect map for that county, but people have to take into account the bigger picture.

For instance, Mountain Green in Morgan County is going to have more in common with the Wasatch Front in terms of economic development in the next 10 years than it will with Morgan or Coalville, he said.

No matter where the lines end up, "it does take a substantial amount of time" to come up with a balance between any given county and its neighbors, Froerer said.

The public meeting was the lawmakers second one that day to bounce ideas off the public and gather input, including submissions on where to draw the lines.

The proposed drafts of the new district lines that state representatives and senators showed off at the meeting are basically second drafts, said Rep. Ken Sumsion, chairman of the redistricting committee. The drafts can still change before fall, when lines will have to become more finalized.

Until then, the lawmakers will continue to travel around Utah and continue to collect the public's feedback. Any resident can submit his or her own maps, and view proposed maps from other residents and elected officials, at www.redistrictutah.com.

Humphreys was the only attendee of about 14 at the public meeting who had submitted his own maps to the state's website. He admitted it took him 50 hours to complete his version of all four maps.

Sumsion said, "Welcome to our world."

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