Former Congressman Rob Bishop suddenly resigns from independent redistricting commission

Bishop said the commission was a “metro-centric” process that ignored the needs of the rural parts of the state.

Former Congressman Rob Bishop abruptly resigned from Utah’s independent redistricting commission on Monday evening.

“This commission is designed not to work,” Bishop said, expressing his frustration with the process.

The commission was voting what map proposals they would bring forward to the Legislative Redistricting Committee on Nov. 1. Bishop said the commission was a “metro-centric” process that ignored the needs of the rural parts of the state.

“When five of the seven commissioners are from the Wasatch Front, and the majority of those five are from Salt Lake County, we see things in a different way,” Bishop said.

The commission will present up to three map proposals each for Congress, Utah House, Utah Senate and the State School Board. Bishop felt the congressional map proposals favored by most of the group unfairly tilted toward Democrats.

“You cannot gerrymander a gubernatorial race, which is why the minority Democrats have not elected a governor since 1980. You cannot gerrymander a U.S. Senate race, which is why the Democrats haven’t elected a senator since 1970. You can gerrymander a congressional race,” Bishop said.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at some of these maps and see what will happen,” Bishop added. “I can guarantee you there will be three Republicans and one Democrat elected for each of the next five cycles, it’s simply the way the map is drawn.”

Bishop did not return phone calls or texts seeking comment.

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, who appointed Bishop to the commission, said Bishop’s resignation just underscores his belief that the commission is unnecessary.

“I share his frustrations with how the commission has conducted its business. His decision to step down at this point in the process is further evidence that the duly elected representatives of the people are best suited to redraw district boundaries, as the courts have repeatedly affirmed,” Wilson said. “As we expect to receive and review maps from the commission in just over a week, I do not intend to appoint a replacement.”

Bishop’s objection to the commission’s maps may not matter much in the grand scheme of things. The independent commission has only an advisory role in redistricting, and the legislative committee is not legally required to adopt any of their recommendations.

The Better Boundaries group, which was behind the 2018 voter-approved initiative that created the independent commission, expressed their disappointment at the news of Bishop’s resignation.

“We are disappointed to hear of Commissioner Rob Bishop’s resignation from Utah’s Independent Redistricting Commission. The Commission is required to uphold a certain set of standards and criteria. Moving forward, we are encouraged by the work of the remaining six commissioners to suggest objective and qualified maps to the state legislative redistricting committee through this fair and transparent process,” the group said.

Lawmakers will make a final decision on the new maps during a special session tentatively scheduled for the week of Nov. 15.