Voters cast their ballot at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City on November 3, 2020. With 2020 census data in hand, Utah is in the process of creating new riding maps for the next 10 years. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)
TAYLORSVILLE – When it comes to reconstructing representative boundaries, Stuart Hepworth sees roads as a key part of bringing different neighborhoods together.
For him, it’s important that someone can drive from one Utah electoral district to another without randomly crossing another district in between. This is something that can be difficult in the Beehive State.
âThe geography of Utah is quite difficult for someone who values ââthe cohesion and contiguity of roads. Compared to other states, it is much more difficult to create compact districts and contiguous to roads,â a- he said at a meeting of the Utah Independent Redistribution Commission on Tuesday night. . “With the geography of Utah, you have areas that look like they need to be connected on a map, like Uintah and Grand counties for example, where there is no real way to get between them.”
As Utah’s Independent Constituency Commission continues to gather feedback on the state’s new voting cards for the next decade, its leaders spent most of Tuesday’s 2.5-hour meeting listening how a handful of residents of the state designed their own maps of Congress, Parliament and the school board. .
A card creation feature, launched last month, is one of the innovative ways the Utah Independent Redistribution Commission is trying to compile public commentary by trying to come up with more fair voting cards for the public to consider. ‘Utah. Legislature later this year.
The commission has received a modest number of responses in recent weeks. Commission staff said they received more than a dozen card submissions from Congress, but struggled with school boards, only receiving two in that category.
The system allows anyone to design cards and send them to the committee. It drew in people like Hepworth, a native of southern Jordan and a current University of Utah student. Hepworth may have been the star of Tuesday’s meeting, showcasing not only his designs for the four voting cards, but several Congressional District options based on various definitions of the mission.
Explaining his map of the Utah House of Representatives to the commission, he said that in addition to his road theory, he wanted to focus more on neighborhoods and similar communities – a redistribution term called communities of interests – rather than keeping cities in the same neighborhoods. .
âI tried to avoid dividing neighborhoods into cities with very well established neighborhoods,â he said. “One of the (big) things in all of my maps is to keep districts contiguous to roads, so you can drive from one district to another without crossing another district.”
Communities of interest are an important component of redistribution. They are neighborhoods and communities with common interests. So if you want to be in the same electoral district as your neighbor, that’s a community of interest. The same goes for a specific neighborhood in a city, like Glendale in Salt Lake City or East Bay in Provo.
What is a community of interest? Trying to keep a county in the same district, which is part of the comments the commission received, according to Joey Fica, GIS and logistics specialist for the Utah Independent Redistribution Commission.
The commission allows residents who may not be interested in designing maps to display on the map the community of interest they wish to preserve. The commission considers economic, educational, environmental, ethnic, industrial, linguistic, local, neighborhood and religious communities as examples of communities of interest.
These comments can be viewed online for everyone to see. For example, a resident of the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City said he saw “traffic, air pollution or safety issues” as unifying topics for their area, as a reason they would like be in the same neighborhoods. A resident of Vernal wrote that it was important to keep the Native American lands and reservations of eastern Utah together so that they could “maintain the culture and … the rights.”
Provo resident Daniel Friend argues that rural Utah is potentially the state’s largest community of interest. That’s why he designed a congressional map that features one giant district for rural communities and three smaller districts that divide the Front Wasatch population group.
âDespite being geographically very large, rural Utah shares so much,â he said. âOne thing the census brought up is that a lot of rural Utah is losing population, a lot of Front Wasatch is gaining some. I don’t know how a (representative) can represent these two interests as they are directly opposed. “
He told the committee that he was aware that the current congressional districts are divided in such a way as to ensure that the four districts have at least urban and rural communities; in fact, he said he heard comments from a rural Utah resident who prefers it. However, he is concerned that some districts are already determined by urban participation and that all four districts will eventually become so if demographic trends continue as they have.
Unlike Hepworth, Friend also believes cities should stick together as much as possible. That’s why its Utah legislative districts – a map that would not be accepted as is due to issues with borderline population size – kept places like Eagle Mountain and Riverton in the same House Districts. representatives, as well as combining Cedar City and Enoch together.
Travis DeJong, a Utah resident and Draper City employee, shared his cards with a similar approach. He said his goal was to keep counties and towns intact as much as possible. He and Friend also tried to divide major cities by neighborhood boundaries instead of placing the lines directly across them.
Another approach was to take the current limits and adjust them to new populations, which Kevin Jones did. Still, the Utah resident was ready to crown Hepworth the champion for having the “best house card on this whole earth.”
The Utah Independent Redistribution Commission has until Nov. 1 to finalize the cards to send to legislative leaders. Gordon Haight, executive director of the commission, said they had entered a “critical period” in their process.
The Utah Legislative Redistribution Committee, which is made up of Utah lawmakers, is also considering public comment before also recommending potential voting cards for the next decade. Despite long delays in receiving the 2020 census data that is used to help determine voting cards, the state is still on track to complete the process before the end of the year.
It is possible that one of the models shared on Tuesday will be selected by the committee before the end of October, when the committee will complete public comments and submit a model to heads of state. It could also become the state’s final voting card.
Even if not, Rex Facer, the chairman of the Utah Independent Riding Commission, told residents who shared their cards that he appreciated their efforts.
âThere is something very useful about seeing alternate visions of how we can group things together,â he said.
Meanwhile, the commission also voted to add and modify some of its public comment tour which is already underway. He added a new event at Mexican Hat in San Juan County on September 29 at the request of the Navajo Nation, according to staff members. He will also hold a new meeting in Moab on October 13.
The commission also moved its October 9 meeting from Saratoga Springs to Eagle Mountain and moved its Herriman meeting to October 22-21. The commission still has 10 public feedback events scheduled across the state through October 23.
Facer said on Tuesday that the commission would continue to accept public comments and also card designs until October 23. All of this can be done through the commission’s website.