Utah Congressional redistricting delayed

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SALT LAKE CITY — Voting on the boundaries for Utah’s new congressional district is delayed until Oct. 17, as Utah House and Senate members cannot agree on a map.

On Tuesday, after long debate between both parties and inter-party bickering among House Republicans, the Utah State Legislature recessed. They will meet again on Oct. 17 so that members have time to draw up new proposals and come to a compromise.

This process started six months ago for Utah legislators, who, according to Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, started reaching out to their constituencies for input and tried to make the process as open as possible.

“This has been the most open and transparent process that I’ve seen in my three times,” Valentine said.

Valentine, an attorney and adjunct professor of law at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, has now seen three congressional redistricting processes. He confirmed that lawmakers approved maps for legislative districts and they are waiting for Gov. Gary Herbert’s signature.

“Last night when we left we’d passed all the maps except for the congressional district maps,” Valentine said.

The goal of the new proposed congressional district map is to incorporate both urban and rural areas into each district.

The most current map known to the public carved Salt Lake City into four “pizza slices” with attached rural areas and other cities.

On Tuesday, House Republicans proposed a new plan which has not yet been vetted in public hearings, which added more rural land to the new fourth district.

Throughout the process, Democrats have accused Republicans of gerrymandering, and last night of drawing up new boundaries away from the public’s view. The various boundary maps have been vehemently protested since  Monday, with groups meeting on Capitol Hill and claiming that public opinion was not taken seriously into account by those drawing proposed boundaries. However, most Republicans are standing by the redistricting committee’s House chair Rep. Kenneth Sumsion, R-Lehi, who has drawn many maps for the redistricting process.

“Rep. Sumsion has done an excellent job of keeping things fair,” said Rep. Christopher Herrod, R-Provo.

Herrod says he is frustrated that there have been so many accusations of gerrymandering. Gerrymandering, or redrawing congressional boundaries to favor one’s own party, has been a major concern voiced by Democrats.

As they were leaving Capitol Hill, legislators were told additional public hearings on the new maps will be held Friday. The Senate, according to Valentine, said the redistricting  process should be as open to the public as possible.

“This has to be the kind of process that we as Utahns can be proud of,” Valentine said.

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