Legislative redistricting committee coming to Southern Utah to speak on process, hear from public

Lawmakers conduct business on the floor of the Utah House of Representatives in Salt Lake City, Jan. 27, 2020 | File photo by Rick Bowmer, Associated Press, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The committee overseeing the redrawing of voting districts in the state is coming to southwest Utah later this week.

Map of the four congressional districts in Utah as of 2020. These boundaries are an example of those likely to change in the wake of the redistricting process being undertaken by the state. | Image courtesy of the Lt. Governor’s Office, St. George News

The Utah Legislative Redistricting Committee will visit Cedar City and St. George on Friday and Saturday to take public comment on the process of redrawing boundaries for legislative, congressional and state school board districts.

This process is done once every 10 years following the U.S. Census in order to balance out the numbers of voters within the districts.

As populations within individual districts both grow and decrease over time, shifts in district boundaries can occur. This ultimately impacts who people within a district can vote for and who their representatives are, which can go on to impact which political parties are in power in Congress and the state Legislature.

The southwest corner of Utah has seen continuing growth over the last decade, with Washington County growing by over 40,000 people since 2010. It is anticipated that this growth will result in the county gaining seats in the Legislature.

The Utah Legislature announced earlier this year that it was embarking on a rather condensed process in order to move redistricting efforts along by the end of the year due to time lost to the pandemic in 2020. Public input on redrawing the districts is also being sought along the way as the legislative committee visits communities across the state in order to hear from residents.

  • Friday’s meeting for Iron County will be held in Cedar City at Southern Utah University’s Church Auditorium at 1 p.m.
  • The Saturday meeting for Washington County will he held at 10 a.m. in the Zion Room at Dixie State University in St. George.

Those unable to attend the meetings in person can access online streaming options on the legislative committee’s website. These meetings will also be recorded and hosted on the website for people to view afterward.

A mail-in ballot dropbox at the Washington County Administration Building in St. George, St. George, Utah, November 2016. The redrawing of legislative districts in the state is likely to produce additional seats in the Utah Legislature due to the area’s growth over the last 10 years. | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Aiding the legislative committee in the process of collecting public comment across the state is the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission. The independent commission is a bipartisan group consisting of individuals that came about following the passing of the “Better Boundaries” ballot initiative of 2018. Members of the commission were selected by Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, as well as the governor’s office.

Like the legislative committee, the commission is visiting communities across the state to get as much public input as possible. Their visits to Cedar City and St. George last week are posted on the commission’s YouTube page.

The commission will ultimately take the public input it receives and draw proposed district maps that will then be submitted to the legislative committee for consideration.

A part of this process involves identifying “communities of interest” that may be areas of similar economic, cultural or religious backgrounds.

Rex Facer (blue mask), chair of the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission, speaks about the process of redistricting during a public meeting held at the Washington City Community Center, Washington City, Utah, Sept 17, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission, St. George News

The public can help the commission and committee identify these communities by submitting their own map proposals. Individuals can draw and submit these maps online at the legislative committee’s website.

The public hearings and town halls on redistricting began in mid-August and will run through mid-November when the independent commission delivers its recommendations to the legislative commission for review.

From there, a special session of the Legislature is expected to be held before Thanksgiving to adopt the final boundaries. The governor will then either approve or veto the new legislative maps in December.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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