Lawmakers discuss redistricting issues

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    By Kallee Nielsen

    Utah lawmakers began discussing plans to redraw legislative and congressional district lines at a special session Tuesday – an issue that”s pitted Democrats against Republicans, and vice-versa, since the release of the 2000 Census results.

    “We”re hearing the same arguments that we heard in 1991,” said Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem. “Whoever”s a minority still has the same feeling that we”re being unfair to them.”

    On that point, Democrats agree.

    During radio commercials, public statements and heated sessions on the house floor, Democrats have repeatedly condemned Utah House redistricting proposals as unfair.

    House Minority Leader Ralph Becker, D-Salt Lake City, says the redistricting “stifles minority voices” by manipulating congressional districts to increase Republican dominance from a two-thirds to a three-fourths majority.

    In defense of the plan, Valentine said it gives much needed representation to Utah”s rural areas, which make up roughly 80% of the state.

    Still, despite today”s talks, legislators have not yet reached an agreement on how to divide up the three U.S. House seats, 75 state House and 29 state Senate districts.

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