State legislators face unhappy voters over redistricting proposals

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns expressed frustration that their opinions haven’t been heard in the state’s redistricting debate just a few days before the Legislature is set to approve a new congressional district map.

Emotions ran high during the meeting at the Salt Lake City Public Library Tuesday night, with audience members expressing dissatisfaction with the redistricting maps under consideration for Utah’s congressional seats. Speakers included Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City, and Rep. Kenneth Sumsion, R-Lehi, both on the legislative redistricting committee, and Kelli Lundgren of activist group Represent Me Utah.

Despite the public frustration, McAdams remained optimistic that a compromise can be reached by Monday. He said he appreciated those who attended and shared their discontent.

[media-credit name=”Illustration by LIzzie Jenkins” align=”alignleft” width=”235″][/media-credit]
Rep. Kenneth Sumison proposed this map for redrawing Utah's district lines.

“We try to reach across the aisle and work together,” McAdams said.  “I would hope that was apparent tonight. I think it’s also good to see the people who will make the time out of their busy lives to come and hear what’s going on and to offer their input.”

Lundgren’s group, which advocates transparent and non-partisan redistricting, rallied at Capitol Hill on Oct. 4, when the final vote was scheduled to take place, in response to the committee voting on maps the public had never seen.

The current base map, SB3002, was hardly discussed at the meeting. The King-Garber map, a citizen submitted map, and the McAdams compromise map were mainly discussed.

The King-Garber map,  a favorite of Lundgren’s, would place Provo in a district that comes up from the southern border of the state. Sumsion stated in the meeting  the goal of the new boundary lines is to divide the population of Utah evenly among four congressional districts.

“It basically just takes the southern part of the state and brings it up until you run out of 690,000 people,” Sumsion said.

According to Sumsion, despite the high praise for the King-Garber map, it will not pass the final vote.

“Basically, we’ve been told repeatedly from the Senate that anything that’s a major deviation off of the base map, which I would say the Garber is, that they won’t pass it,” Sumsion said.

The redistricting process, began back in April, and will likely end on Monday, Oct. 17, when the final vote is scheduled during a special legislative session. Lawmakers have already approved maps for redistricting seats for the state Senate and House of Representatives.

During the meeting, McAdams expressed his own frustrations with the process and his continuing optimism and hope for a compromise

“If this had been held a couple of days ago, you might have heard some four-letter words out of me, you might hear some four-letter words in the next couple of days, but today I kind of want to come to you with a spirit of optimism,” McAdams said.

Most acknowledged that none of the maps put forth were perfect. The King-Garber map splits Utah County, and most other proposed maps, including the base map, split Salt Lake County. In Sumsion’s two newest proposals, Holiday and Mill Creek are split, and many residents of those areas are not pleased.

“What I’ve found is that nobody minds splitting someone else’s neighborhood, they just don’t want their neighborhood split,” Sumsion said.

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