LOGAN – Utah’s Legislative Redistricting Committee is slated to visit Cache Valley to solicit public input on Tuesday, Sept. 7.
That 20-member panel of state lawmakers is tasked with coordinating with an independent redistricting commission to redraw political boundaries for congressional, legislative and school districts using 2020 population data to be furnished by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Local lawmakers Sen. Scott Sandall (R-District 17) and Rep. Joel Ferry (R-District 1) are among the members of the Legislative Redistricting Committee.
Former state senator Lyle Hillyard and former U.S. representative Rob Bishop are on the seven-member Utah Independent Redistricting Commission.
Under state Proposition 4, which was narrowly approved by Utah voters in 2018, the legislative and independent districting panels must cooperate to provide a greater degree of transparency to the once-a-decade process of redrawing the state’s political boundaries.
Traditionally, the redistricting process has been strictly limited to the state Legislature, with the majority party often drawing convoluted boundaries to gerrymander its registered voters to ensure continued control of most districts.
The goal of Proposition 4, according to its advocates, is to empower Utahns to participate in the redistricting process by communicating with the independent commissioners through public meetings and online technology.
The members of the independent commission will then develop proposed district maps that respect various communities of interest, geographic realities and city/county jurisdictions.
If that task wasn’t challenging enough, Hillyard said during a May 18 report to the Logan City Council, that process is being further complicated by a delay in the release of population data by the Census Bureau.
“The COVID-19 pandemic significantly delayed our schedule for collecting and processing data for the 2020 Census,” explained Dr. Ron Jarmin, the acting director of the Census Bureau. “These delays pushed back our delivery of the redistricting data to the states.”
Jarmin said that data is now scheduled to be released in two batches. The first release is slated for Aug.16 and the second for Sept. 30. The earlier release will be in a raw form, while the second will be more refined and easier for state lawmakers to utilize.
Once the members of the independent commission have access to that population data, they are required to deliver their proposed district maps to the Legislature for review by Nov. 30 to ensure that those new boundaries are approved prior to the 2022 election cycle.
The chairman of the independent redistricting commission is Rex Facer, an associate professor of public management at Brigham Young University, who was appointed by Gov. Spencer Cox.
Facer has said that he hopes the commission can produce district maps that will benefit Utah as a whole rather than either political party in the state Legislature.
In addition to Facer, the other members of the independent redistricting commission are former Utah Supreme Court justice Christine Durham; former state senator Pat Jones; former state Court of Appeals judge Bill Thorne; Proposition 4 advocate N. Jeffrey Baker; Hillyard and Bishop.
Other members of the legislative redistricting committee are Rep. Paul Ray (R-District 13), Sen. Kirk Cullimore (R-District 9), Sen. Gene Davis (D-District 3), Sen. Lincoln Fillmore (R-District 10), Sen. Don Ipson (R-District 29), Sen. Karen Mayne (D-District 5), Sen. MichaelMcKell (R-District 7), Sen. Carl Albrecht (R-District 70), Rep. Jefferson Burton (R-District 66), Rep Sandra Hollins (D-District 23), Rep. Brad Last (R-District 71), Rep. Steve Lund (R-District 58), Rep. Ashlee Matthews (D-38), Rep. Merrill Nelson (R-District 68), Rep. Val Peterson (R-District 59), Rep. Candice Pierucci (R-District 52), Rep. Robert Spendlove (R-District 49) and Rep. Andrew Stoddard (D-44).
The location for the public hearing with members of the Utah Legislative Committee in Logan will be announced at a later date.