State governments redraw district boundaries every ten years based on results of the most recent census and reapportionment results. With data from the 2010 Census, the Utah State Legislature is about to redraw districts for the United States House of Representatives, the Utah House of Representatives, the Utah Senate, and the Utah State Board of Education. Months of meetings up and down the state to consider the once-every-ten years process of re-districting are nearly complete. “We are almost through with the process so you will know fairly soon,” said Cache Valley Rep. Curt Webb. “It is during the special session of the legislature next week (Oct. 3) that the final maps will be approved.” The Legislative Redistricting Committee was organized after the regular session of the legislature at the first of the year. “May was our first meeting. We have been meeting since and conducting public hearings. There are tools available to us now that weren’t available in past decades for this process. “We have a good computer system that helps us draw the maps easier than before. It’s also been used by the public getting online and submitting their versions of the way the districts should be divided. That has made this process easier and a little more precise.” Webb said the recommendations from the committee become bills that are considered on the floor of the House and the Senate. Those bills, like any bills, can be amended. “They’ve scheduled three days for the special session itself,” said Webb. “It could take the full three days, it has taken that long in the past.” He said during the last round of re-districting, 10 years ago, leadership was not included on any of the committees that made recommendations. When those leaders finally received the committee’s recommendations, they just threw them out the window and started from scratch. “It’s different this time in that the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House were members of our committee and working with the online tools we have come up with maps that make sense. Plus, we’ve been including members of the House and the Senate and the public in some of those decisions. It has been a much more thorough and open process this time around.” Will these new maps stand up to charges of partisanship? “Oh, no,” said Webb. “When one city wants to not have their boundaries split up, the minute you do that, it’s done at some other city’s expense. If it is perceived that a decision is reached to benefit one party, then charges emerge that it was done at another party’s expense. “Every meeting we had we heard cries of partisanship, that we weren’t being independent minded, not being fair.” Webb said he has been influenced after attending the public hearings across the state and that process helped him make better decisions.
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