You will have nearly a dozen chances to weigh in before lawmakers redraw the state’s political boundaries based on population data from the 2020 census.
How those lines are drawn will impact the lives of every person in the state. They determine who represents Utahns in Congress, in the Legislature, and on the State School Board.
Utah’s redistricting may even play a part in which party controls Congress. Utah’s 4th Congressional District has been a swing seat since it was first created in 2012, moving from Republicans to Democrats four times in five elections.
The Legislative Redistricting Committee recently announced it has scheduled 11 public meetings, from Logan to St. George and other towns in-between. The forums will start in September.
The committee in just a couple of weeks to refine map proposals before bringing them to the full legislature.
That will culminate in a special session to approve the new maps just before Thanksgiving.
“Last time I believe they had twenty-one meetings, but that was over the entire summertime,” said House Chair Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield.
U.S. Census delays have pushed back the timeline for the once-a-decade process. In past years, legislators held meetings around the state over a few months. Now, that timeline is compressed to about 10 weeks. The Census Bureau has promised to deliver data by September 30.
Utah is the fastest-growing state in the country, per early data that was released by the Census Bureau that determines how many seats in Congress each state gets.
Utah’s population is 3.72 million. But even as we experienced the fastest growth in the country over the past decade, our number of House seats remains at four.
The state fell 136,978 people short of an additional seat. There were 19 other states in line ahead of Utah for another seat, including New York, which missed out by just 89 people.
How to participate
The public meetings are scheduled to begin Sept. 10 in Price and they wrap up Oct. 20 in Orem, with stops in Logan, Ogden, St. George, Vernal and other locations.
Public meetings are not the only way for you to get involved.
Utahns can also draw their own maps and submit them to lawmakers for consideration using the same software the legislature uses. The functionality should be available this summer.
Even though Utah does not expect to receive the detailed census data that will be used to draw new districts until late summer, we have some idea what parameters will inform the changes.
We already know the 4th Congressional District, which has a population of more than 850,000, will need to shed numbers. The other three districts need to gain population.
For the first time, a parallel redistricting process is playing out as a 9-member independent redistricting commission is holding public meetings. They will present to lawmakers at least three map proposals each for Congress, state senate, state house, and the state school board by Nov. 1.
The voter-created panel will also hold public hearings around the state this summer to get input on its map proposals. The independent commission plays an advisory role, which means lawmakers are not obligated to adopt any of the maps they draw.
Utah’s state constitution requires lawmakers to approve the new maps by March 2022, but they’re planning to finish earlier.
The committee is targeting three days in mid-to-late November for a special session for the full legislature to approve the plan before the holidays.