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Redistricting public hearing coming up, residents asked to give input beforehand

By Genelle Pugmire - | Sep 20, 2021

Daily Herald file photo

The Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, photographed on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016.

In just a few weeks, Provo residents and others living in Utah’s Congressional District 3 will have the opportunity to meet and discuss redistricting.

A public hearing will be held from 6-p.m. Oct. 8 at the Provo Rec Center multi-purpose room. Until then, residents are encouraged to visit http://uirc.utah.gov and put their opinions online and learn more about the impact of redistricting and what it is.

The west side of Utah County, in District 4, will also have a meeting for residents from noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 9 in Saratoga Springs, though the location is yet to be determined.

In the past, according to information distributed by the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission, political boundaries were solely created by state elected officials.

“In 2018, some members of the public expressed a desire to have more say in Utah’s redistricting process, which led to the passage of (Proposition) 4. PROP 4 created a bipartisan redistricting commission that acts independently from the Utah State Legislature. The commission’s mission is to gather input from you and develop the people’s political boundary maps. The maps developed by the commission will be submitted to the legislature in November for review. The legislature will then finalize and adopt new political boundaries maps, which will be in place for the next decade,” the UIRC information said.

In April, multiple Utah County lawmakers were named to the legislative redistricting committee, including Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, whose district covers parts of south Utah County, as well as Reps. Val Peterson, R-Orem; Jefferson Burton, R-Spanish Fork; and Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork.

In a written statement provided to the Daily Herald on being selected, Nelson said he was “excited to be appointed to the Legislature’s decennial redistricting committee” and has had “a long-time interest in the redistricting process and feel(s) the weight of this important responsibility.”

“As a committee, we will take input from the public, current office holders, and the newly formed independent redistricting commission before making final recommendations for approval by the Legislature,” Nelson said.

The Grantsville representative added that “our intent is not to benefit any individual or party, but to draw boundaries that will provide fair representation to all voters throughout the state and thereby strengthen our system of self-government.”

“In that process, we must also retain fair representation of rural areas of the state as our population becomes more urban,” he said. “I have full confidence that this committee will accomplish its task in a fair and transparent manner to maintain the public trust.”

In a written statement, Peterson noted that Utah “has seen rapid growth and development over the past 10 years” and said his goal “is to work with members of the committee and the public to ensure that we come up with a map that represents all Utahns and best serves the needs of the state.”

McKell said that being a member of the redistricting committee “is not an assignment I take lightly,” adding “I will do my part to protect the interest of Utahns.”

“As one of the senators representing the fastest growing county in Utah, I am committed to listening to all individuals as I work with other legislators to make the best recommendation for our state,” the Spanish Fork senator said in a statement.

The committee will craft the new boundaries based on decennial census data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Redistricting is a process that happens only once every 10 years,” according to the UIRC. “States use the most recent census data to redraw congressional, senate, house and school board districts within their state. As Utah changes demographically, redistricting keeps the balance to make sure that each political boundary is of equal population so that every voice has a chance to be heard.”

This is important for cities like Orem that, according to the census, has grown 11% in the past decade and is expected to grow at least 1% or more each year for at least the next 10 years.

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