The Provo City Council finished a period of reviewing public feedback concerning the reshaping of the city’s voting districts and will discuss the results at their city council meeting Tuesday evening.
Redistricting has recently been the source of controversy at the state level since Utah’s legislators rejected district maps provided by an independent commission created for that purpose. But Provo is trying its best to listen to the public feedback they asked for, said councilwoman Rachel Whipple, who has represented District 5 since her election in 2021.
“One thing that we’ve heard from many constituents is a strong desire for a West Side district,” Whipple said.
Despite being the fastest-growing area in Provo, Whipple said the West Side, composed of everything west of I-15, does not have enough residents to compose its own district. It will need to include portions of another neighborhood across the highway or be divided in half and attached to other districts, she said.
This and other concerns will be discussed in Tuesday’s work meeting where the council will attempt to find the best compromise among the map layouts submitted.
“Our goal is to narrow them down if not pick,” said Katrice MacKay, a city-wide representative since 2021.
If the council does not reach a final decision Tuesday, they will need to do so during their next meeting to be in compliance with a state law requiring the council submit a final district map before May 4, MacKay said.
Redistricting is a process undertaken by the council every 10 years following the national census to ensure proportional representation in city council elections.
“The first goal is to have districts that are closely balanced in their population size because that’s completely mandatory,” Whipple said.
Another purpose of updating the district map is to ensure that representation aligns with place and identity.
“You want to have districts that are, relatively speaking, compact — where they make geographical sense and where you address various communities of interests,” District 1 council member Bill Fillmore said.
Communities of interest include well-established neighborhoods, Provo’s central commercial district and the West Side, Whipple said.
To help them identify communities of interest and arrive at the best district map, the council asked for the public’s input. Between Feb. 10–24, the public was asked to create their ideal district map using a web application developed by Provo City GIS staff.
The software enabled Provo residents to group city precincts into one of five districts as long as each had a roughly equal number of residents.
The 120 maps submitted by the public were reviewed by the city council on March 1, and 11 of them were chosen to be presented to the public through a survey system that allowed residents to voice concerns about the allocation of neighborhoods. The survey was open until March 29.
Although the period for public feedback could come to an end if a final district map is chosen in Tuesday’s meeting, Whipple and MacKay both highlighted the importance of BYU students’ involvement in local government processes.
“While you’re here, the decisions that the city council makes affects you. It affects things like your housing, the zoning, the parking, all of these things that matter to you on a day-to-day basis,” Whipple said. “So register to vote here.”
The vast majority of BYU students are not registered to vote, the two councilwomen explained. This limits their ability to influence city council decisions and allows Provo residents living near campus to have a disproportionate influence on the council members elected in their district.
Although many things in local government are long-term processes and may not affect BYU students during their time in Provo, it is valuable to learn about how local government functions, MacKay said.
“For a BYU student, it’s a good time to just learn about the system,” MacKay said. “Because this happens where they live and it happens where they’re going to live.”