Independent redistribution commission presents cards to Utah legislature

SALT LAKE CITY – The commission created by the voters to draw the political boundaries of the state congress, legislature and school board has finally presented its maps to the Utah state legislature.

But lawmakers don’t have to accept them, and the chair of the legislature’s own redistribution committee has suggested one of the cards may have been tainted with political bias. The Independent Redistricting Commission has defended its cards as having undergone a rigorous test focused on keeping communities together and exclusion from politics.

“Bipartism is possible. Fair cards are possible,” said retired commissioner judge William Thorne.

The commission said its cards paid no attention to how the election would go.

“If we had gotten to partisan politics, we never would have completed it,” said former State Senator Lyle Hillyard.

Every 10 years, the boundaries of who represents people in Congress, the Legislature, and the School Board are redrawn based on updated U.S. Census population counts. Voters in 2018 passed Proposition 4, which created the independent constituency commission, to fight against accusations of gerrymandering where lines are drawn to favor one part over another. But the Utah state legislature has the final say and could ignore the commission’s work altogether..

The independent commission submitted 12 maps in total – three for each of the boundaries of Congress, Utah House of Representatives, Utah State Senate, and Utah State Board of Education . One of the convention cards was designed by a member of the public, whom the commission chose from a card they created. This sparked fireworks when committee co-chair Senator Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, challenged the card.

“This map was drawn on a tool that included political biases,” he said, noting how the map was created.

Rex Facer II, the chairman of the Independent Redistribution Commission, said he always passed his independent fairness tests. Stuart Hepworth, who created the map, also defended it before the commission.

“He was chosen because he surpassed the [commission’s] map in all criteria, except preservation of cores from previous districts, ”Hepworth said.

The maps of the Independent Commission for Congress have been controversial. Last week, former congressman Rob Bishop abruptly left the commission, denigrating their maps for being too “metrocentric” and not taking sufficient account of rural interests. House Speaker Brad Wilson R-Kaysville also criticized the commission’s Congressional Cards.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Senator Sandall defended his words.

“It’s not a pure process as some have indicated. There is a bias in every map line you draw,” he said.

Public comments at Monday’s meeting were overwhelmingly in favor of the Independent Redistribution Commission maps.

“I continue to be amazed at the public support we have and the support for the commission’s work,” Facer told FOX 13.

So far, the public has not seen the maps of the legislature’s redistribution committees. Committee co-chair Rep. Paul Ray R-Clinton said they hope the Legislative Assembly maps will be released by the end of the week for the public to review. These maps were not made as public in a process as the Independent Redistribution Commission, which broadcast live and solicited thousands of public comments on boundaries and communities.

Katie Wright, executive director of Better Boundaries, which sponsored Proposal 4, said the public can always pressure the lawmaker to accept the cards from the Independent Redistribution Commission.

“The most important thing right now? Call your lawmaker, email them,” she told FOX 13.

You can view the maps and submit comments here.

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