For the first time since its creation in 2018, the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission will be responsible for bipartisan input to the Legislative Redistricting Committee — and there is optimism that their maps will be used by lawmakers.
“It was the will of the people to have an independent process,” said Katie Wright, executive director of the nonprofit Better Boundaries. “But because lawmakers can repeal propositions, we’ve worked hand-in-hand to negotiate a compromise.”
Better Boundaries helped sponsor Proposition 4 in 2018, leading to the creation of the UIRC, with which they’re still closely involved.
The Utah Independent Redistricting Commission will host a public hearing on Oct. 16 in the USU Taggart Student Center Ballroom to discuss district boundaries of four areas: Congressional, House, Senate and School Board. The meeting is set to begin at 11 a.m.
“Redistricting is only done every 10 years and it’s so critical that communities are able to elect people who represent them who understand their interests and concerns and their community,” Wright said. “In order to have that, you first need districts that reflect those communities and that’s why redistricting is so important.”
Unlike the Legislative Redistricting Committee, the UIRC must adhere to certain criteria in order to “center on people” rather than “centering on politicians,” according to Wright. The seven appointed commissioners cannot be lobbyists, elected officials, political party leaders, or executive appointees.
Redistricting is a parallel process in the state of Utah. While the UIRC is considered an advisory board, they are still required to provide three options for each redistricting map — congressional, school board, house and senate. The Legislative committee can then decide from there whether to accept those maps or draw one of their own.
“The Independent Redistricting Commission is this balanced group of bipartisan people who aren’t current lawmakers and follow all sorts of criteria,” Wright said, “like keeping cities and counties intact, taking into consideration committees of interest, other political lines, geographic boundaries, and really drawing maps that reflect the will of the people. It’s important because they aren’t looking at political data, they are looking at community data.”
The bipartisan group is composed of three Democrats, three Republicans and one gubernatorial appointee, including former Utah State Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan.
Legislative Committee Co-Chair Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, explained the timeline between the committee and the UIRC.
This is the first time it’s ever been done with redistricting in the state,” he said. “We’re really on two separate tracks doing the same kind of work, going out getting public comment, drawing maps with input from the public and other individuals.”
The Legislative Committee has spent the last few months gathering public input and visited Logan on Sept. 9. Sandall said that the UIRC hasn’t disrupted the Legislative process and hasn’t changed the committee’s own process — it’s doing the same things it did 10 years ago.
The UIRC will present the three variations of their maps to the state legislature on Nov. 1. The committee will meet again on Nov. 8 to make their decisions and present one variation of each map to the Utah State Legislature in its entirety.
“We’ll ask them questions, have dialogue, and then we’ll take everything together between what we have found,” Sandall said.
Attendees are encouraged to draw their own maps at uirc.utah.gov.