Rob Bishop steps down from Utah redistricting commission
SALT LAKE CITY — Rob Bishop, the former 1st District U.S. representative, has stepped down from the independent body tasked with helping redraw the political boundaries around Utah, according to Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson.
Wilson, a Kaysville Republican, alluded to his departure in a statement Monday, expressing sympathy with Bishop’s apparent frustrations on the body. The Utah House member also said Bishop’s move is proof that lawmakers are better equipped to manage the potentially charged task of redistricting.
“I share his frustrations with how the commission has conducted its business,” Wilson said in a statement. “His decision to step down at this point in the process is further evidence that the duly elected representatives of the people are best suited to redraw district boundaries, as the courts have repeatedly affirmed.”
Reps from the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission, or UIRC, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment late Monday afternoon. Bishop, a Republican from Brigham City who represented Weber County and the rest of Northern Utah in the U.S. House for nine terms, was one of seven members on the appointed, bipartisan body.
The UIRC was formed after passage in 2018 of Proposition 4, a referendum put to Utah voters and touted by proponents as a check against possible gerrymandering during the redistricting process. The commission’s role is to draw up proposals for redistricting using new 2020 U.S. Census Bureau population figures and provide them to the Utah Legislative Redistricting Committee by Nov. 1 — one week away.
Katie Wright, executive director of Better Boundaries, the body that promoted Proposition 4, expressed disappointment with Bishop’s move, but indicated the commission will continue to work. “Moving forward, we are encouraged by the work of the remaining six commissioners to suggest objective and qualified maps to the state legislative redistricting committee through this fair and transparent process,” Wright said.
The Utah Legislative Redistricting Committee is made up of Utah Senate and House members and it’s formally tasked with coming up with a plan to redraw the districts for Utah’s four U.S. House seats and the Utah House and Senate seats around the state. It may accept, reject or modify any proposal put to it by the UIRC, which is to submit its plans to state lawmakers by Nov. 1.
Wilson’s statement didn’t hint at a possible reason for Bishop’s departure. But Bishop expressed frustration last week during a UIRC hearing in Herriman over the UIRC redistricting proposals that seem to be emerging, according to video of the meeting. His concerns apparently stem from the the way urban and rural areas of Utah are divvied in the UIRC redistricting proposals.
If the “green” proposal for redrawing of Utah’s four U.S. House seats is not among the proposals coming out of the UIRC, an exasperated Bishop said at one point, “this commission has failed its job and responsibility.” 538, the online media operation that focuses on polling and politics, rates the “green” proposal — one of several under consideration by the commission — as solidly Republican.
Later on during last Thursday’s meeting, as commission members were discussing the varied redistricting proposals, Bishop alluded to the possibility of stepping down. “Would you like me just to resign now and go back and say what I really want to think?” Bishop said. “No,” answered one of the other commission members.
The body’s efforts, Bishop lamented later during the meeting, were “going down the path of making this easily a worthless experience when we take it to the Legislature.”