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Five things you need to know about the Utah Legislature’s redistricting maps

The only public hearing for the proposals is Monday afternoon.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Maps at a news conference held by the Utah’s bipartisan redistricting panel in Taylorsville on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021.

Utah lawmakers released their redistricting map proposals shortly before 10 p.m. on Friday evening, a late release that gave the public 65 hours to digest and comment on the maps that will shape Utah’s politics for the next decade.

The Legislature’s Redistricting Committee will meet at 3 p.m. on Monday for the first and only public hearing about the proposed maps. Lawmakers begin a special session for redistricting the following morning.

We analyzed the map proposals. Here are some things you need to know before the Legislature votes on the proposed new districts this week.

Utah’s 4th Congressional District gets a lot more Republican

Despite a distinct GOP advantage, the 4th District flipped partisan control four times in five elections. That’s going to get a lot harder now.

The new boundaries push farther east and south in Utah County, picking up solidly Republican parts of the state. Previously, the 4th District was as far north as 2100 South in Salt Lake County. Now, the northern edge begins approximately at 4100 South, eliminating parts of South Salt Lake and West Valley City. A larger portion of Spanish Fork, along with Ephriam, Manti and Gunnison are now part of the district.

According to partisan data from L2 Political and the online mapping tool Dave’s Redistricting, the current partisan lean, or the predicted share of the vote, for the 4th District is 58.6% Republican and 36.4% Democratic.

The new map proposal from the Legislative Redistricting Committee shows that the partisan lean stands at 66.45% Republican to 28.33% Democratic. That’s the lowest predicted Democratic vote share of all four House maps.

A separate analysis from the Princeton Gerrymandering project says the projected Republican vote share for the district is 68.52%.

The average margin of victory for the 4th District in the past five elections is 9,384 votes. Two of those elections, both Democratic wins, were decided by less than 800 votes. With more Republicans in the district, those close elections may be a thing of the past.

CD 2 is the most blue of the four red congressional districts

The largest projected share of the Democratic vote for Congress can be found in the 2nd Congressional District, which stretches from Salt Lake City and Bountiful to St. George. The partisan lean of the current map is 59.72% Republican and 34.52% Democratic.

That’s roughly the same partisan division of the current map.

The proposed 2nd District map no longer contains the area surrounding the University of Utah and the Avenues, both Democratic strongholds, but pulls in some Democratic-leaning areas in South Salt Lake and West Valley City.

Odd women out

As the lines shift every decade, inevitably lawmakers get drawn into the same district. This time around, two female state lawmakers ended up on the wrong side of that equation.

In 2016, Democrat Suzanne Harrison lost to then-Rep. LaVar Christensen by just 3 votes. Christensen retired prior to the 2018 election, and Harrison easily won in 2018 and again in 2020.

That was quite a feat since House District 32 had a Republican partisan lean of 60.14% to 35.5% for Democrats.

The proposed state House maps moved Harrison out of HD 32 into HD 51, which is represented by Republican Jeff Stenquist.

Harrison’s new district is much more Republican, with a partisan advantage of 65%-31% for the GOP. Republican Judy Weeks-Rohner hasn’t yet been sworn in, but she is already in the crosshairs. Last month, Weeks-Rohner won the special election to replace Rep. Craig Hall, who was appointed to the Second District Court by Gov. Spencer Cox. She will be officially sworn in on Tuesday.

Her tenure representing HD 33 will be short-lived.

The new map proposal moves Weeks-Rohner from HD33 to HD30, currently represented by Republican Mike Winder.

Weeks-Rohner helped derail the tax reform measure passed by lawmakers in 2019. Her group gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. The Legislature repealed the bill before it went to a public vote. In 2020 she was a leader of a successful effort to oust longtime State Sen. Lyle Hillyard.

The most Republican and Democratic districts

In the GOP-controlled Legislature, there are some districts that are more Republican than others.

According to partisan lean data, there are seven districts on the new House map with an expected GOP vote share above 80%: HD 70, HD 58, HD 55, HD 1, HD 67, HD 27 and HD 66.

Held by Richfield Republican Carl Albrecht, HD 70 has the highest predicted Republican vote share at 83.51%.

On the proposed Senate map, Senate District 24 is the only district above 80% expected GOP vote, with nearly 82%. Four others, SD 14, SD 17, SD 1 and SD 28 are above 75%.

The proposed House districts with the highest predicted Democratic vote share are HD 25, HD 24, HD 28, and HD 40, and each is above 65%. On the Senate map, there is only one seat, SD 2, with an expected Democratic vote share above 70%.

Most of the ‘competitive’ seats are held by Democrats

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project defines “competitive” as instances where the expected vote share for either party is 46.5-53.3%. Using that metric, just 9 of 75 seats in the Utah House and 4 of 29 in the Senate can be considered competitive.

SD 1, SD 4, SD 5 and SD 8 are mostly within Salt Lake County, and all are held by Democrats.

On the House map, HD 30, HD 31, HD 34, HD 35, HD 36, HD 37 HD 38, HD 44 and HD 46 are in the “competitive” range. Again, all of those seats are, at least partially, within Salt Lake County. All but one are held by Democrats.

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