Utah Independent Redistricting Commission to Hold Public Hearing at SUU

The Utah Independent Redistricting Committee will be visiting Southern Utah University’s Great Hall  Saturday, Sept. 18 at 11 a.m. for a public hearing regarding the proposed district maps that Utah Redistricting have collected since the most recent census.

The districts in question will be for Utah’s congress seats as well as the state congress and school board districts according to the Utah Code Chapter 20 guidelines. The hearings are meant to refine the maps along public taste so UIRC can submit the most ideal maps for consideration.

UIRC chair Rex Facer said that the commission will explain the process they follow when drawing their maps at the hearing and will get feedback from the community on the current drafts for their maps.

“The important thing is that people come and participate,” Facer said. “And that they get involved with this process.”

Because the districts are meant to have equal populations, the commission has to split adjacent communities.

“On one of our maps currently, Cedar City is drawn in one district and Enoch is in another,” Facer said. “One thing we’re asking at the hearing is what people think of that. Is it a weird district line, and where should the communities be divided.”

The UIRC is relatively new, and is the result of legislation passed in 2020. This is Utah’s first independent, bipartisan commission to oversee redistricting, so it could be a profound opportunity for more political representation for Utah residents. UIRC have been conducting a tour of the state to raise awareness and gather public input for the imminent district changes.

The commission comprises seven state officials who gather the input of the Utah public on proposed district maps before they make the ultimate decision on district borders. It’s UIRC’s responsibility to make a “good faith” effort to draw the district lines to equally distribute the state population among the districts according to the criteria listed in their “Proposed Threshold and Redistricting Standards.

They also propose that the maps should not take into account race as a predominant redistricting factor, as well as refraining from drawing odd or inexplicable borderlines that maintain “compact” drawing.

At the end of the tour, the UIRC will submit three drafts for each district for legislative review, and the Legislative Redistricting Committee will then hold a public hearing of their own to enact the commission’s best proposed plans or to enact their own plan.

In order to preserve the “good faith” they propose in the document, attendance at the public hearings is critical. This will be Utah residents’ only chance to express how they want to be represented for the next 10 years and to change the political layout of the state.

For SUU students and Cedar City residents who cannot attend the Saturday hearing, the UIRC will be holding a hearing in Washington City on Sept. 17 at 6 p.m., and will continue to hold other hearings throughout the state and the month of October.

Story by Janzen Jorgensen
Photo courtesy of Taylor Brandon