“Redistricting is the process of re-drawing congressional and state legislative boundaries, and gerrymandering is when a party in power manipulates the redistricting process to favor themselves or hurt opponents.”-kpcw.org 02/28/2020
In November 2018, Utah voters approved Proposition 4, a citizen initiative that created an independent 7-person commission tasked with recommending district maps to the Utah legislature for approval during the decennial redistricting process that will take place in 2021 after the census is complete.
Why is Independent Redistricting Still Important?
Despite voter approval of this independent redistricting commission, the Utah Legislature essentially gutted the powers of the commission during the 2020 Legislative Session with Senate Bill 200.
According to coverage by local station KCPW, “the bill does keep the independent redistricting commission from Prop 4 but also allows the legislature to keep its own redistricting committee. Both can recommend maps to the legislature. The commission—not the committee—is required to adopt standards to draw maps fairly, by preserving communities and prohibiting the favoring of incumbent elected officials. The bill also removes Prop 4’s requirement for the legislature to explain its decision.”
This means that although the commission may recommend fairly drawn maps to the Legislature, the Legislature’s own committee may create its own maps without adherence to any fair standards, and ultimately accept them without any explanation or justification.
What Can Be Done?
With the independent redistricting commission demoted to an advisory role, there are two things that must be done to ensure fair redistricting takes place in 2021.
First, legislators must be elected who will support the standards-based redistricting maps proposed by the independent commission. Call your legislative candidates and ask them what their position is on this issue, and vote for those who pledge support for independent redistricting.
Second, when maps are being drawn and decisions being made in 2021, we must hold the Legislature’s feet to the fire and make sure they don’t dismiss out of hand the standards-based redistricting maps created by the independent commission. It is ultimately up to us to make sure our representatives act according to the interests of the people of Utah.