Utah Democrats Will Get a Boost From Proposed Redistricting Map

Blogging Time

According to an analysis done by FiveThirtyEight, Democrats will gain ground in the race for a Utah congressional seat.

Each of the three designs that were approved by the commission is projected to produce one blue-leaning congressional District -- and the analysis shows that the Democrats would have a strong advantage in one of them. All three drafted maps show that Republicans have an advantage in Utah's remaining congressional districts.

According to FiveThirtyEight's analysis, the state's current districts are all red. The Republican U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens is now in the only competitive seat, after he defeated Ben McAdams, a Democrat.

Rex Facer II chairman of Utah's bipartisan Redistricting Panel said that the proposals of the group don't represent any attempt to help one party more than another, and that members are committed to keeping partisan politics from their deliberations.

He stated that there have not been any discussions about whether or not this will benefit Republicans. "This is about how well we capture the interests of Utahns."

As state legislators conduct their parallel map-drawing processes, it is not clear how important the designs of the independent commission will be. During a meeting on Nov. 1, the Legislature's redistricting commission will be looking at the suggestions of the independent group. However, by law, it is allowed to ignore these maps.

Paul Ray, the co-chair of the Legislature's committee said that he has not been paying as much attention to independent commission work than he has been on his own panel’s statewide public outreach efforts.

The Clearfield Republican stated, "Once they present these [maps] to us, we'll examine them and we will see where they fit in what we're currently working on. You'll be able to see how similar we are to their maps and their explanations of them."

The debate over Utah's electoral maps has been long about whether to keep the left-leaning Salt Lake City area voters in one district or disperse them across the four districts. This decision will determine whether Democrats have a chance at one of the state’s congressional seats.

Tensions flared during Monday night's meeting of the independent commission. Former GOP congressman Rob Bishop abruptly resigned from his position on the panel following frustration over the drafted maps.

Bishop stated, "It doesn’t take a rocket scientist look at some maps and see what will occur." "I can assure you that there will be three Republicans elected and one Democrat for each of these five cycles. It's just the way the map was drawn.

Following Bishop's resignation, the Utah House Speaker, a Republican, stated that he shares these concerns and views the ex-congressman's departure as "further proof that the duly elected representatives are best suited for redrawing district boundaries."

Katie Wright, executive director at Better Boundaries, an anti-gerrymandering organization, pointed out that Wilson appointed Bishop, and voted for a 2020 bill that established the current bipartisan independent districts process.

Wright stated that the independent group's recommendations are the result of hundreds of comments and maps from residents all over the state. Wright believes that the Legislature will be forced to pay attention due to this level of engagement.

"Utahns pay attention across the state. People have said, "Hey, please don’t divide my community." She asked, "Please keep my city intact." "And I hope and believe that maps will eventually reflect that, because it makes sense."

Ray claims that drawing congressional borders around urban voters, as Ray does, would cause the same problem.

He said, "If the roles were reversed, and we were like: Hey, let's place a doughnut there and create a completely Red District, they're going be screaming, the press will scream Gerrymandering." It happens both ways."

Facer stated that the independent commission made doughnut suggestions and also proposed a pizza-style mapping system that divides Salt Lake City into different districts.

He said, "We have maps for both flavors, if necessary."

In order to promote fair redistricting in this debate, the state's voters in 2018 approved the ballot initiative to establish the independent commission which has been working on maps for the past months.

Last year, the state Legislature rewrote and amended the anti-gerrymandering legislation that was approved by voters. Although the ballot measure did not require legislators to adopt maps from the independent commission, the 2020 changes eliminated the requirement that they at least vote yes or no on the proposed maps.

Original voter initiative forbade independent redistricting groups from drawing boundaries to protect incumbents or support a political party. The Legislature approved a revised version that includes a looser provision. It requires the commission to create its own rules for internal "prohibiting undue favoring or disfavoring" parties or candidates.

Facer stated Tuesday that the independent commission didn't look at incumbents' locations or partisan data as it developed its map recommendations.

The final decision regarding the new maps will be made by lawmakers during a special session, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 15.

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I live and work in Utah, so my news will focus on this state. I am also very into finance, entrepreneurship, crypto, and small business. I'm an owner of several businesses, from a solar farm to a sports card shop. I write about my experiences running them.

American Fork, UT

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