New state House, Senate maps win quick approval

Lawmakers also approve changes to state school board boundaries.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Brian King and Rep Karen Kwan, watch the votes on the new district maps, during the legislative special session, on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021.

It took just 20 minutes on Wednesday for the Utah House of Representatives to give the stamp of approval to new political boundaries for the 75 members in that body.

And the state senators made even quicker work of the district map that will govern their chamber’s elections for the next decade.

Explosive growth in some areas of the state caused the lines to shift away from the rural areas and toward the urban core along the Wasatch front, although the legislative committee tasked with drawing the maps worked to keep counties whole.

The maps did not use any of the proposals put forth by the voter-approved independent redistricting commission.

Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, warned the map from legislators gives voters the dangerous impression that their elected officials are not listening to them. His attempt to swap the Legislature’s map proposal for one from the independent body failed.

“There’s no question if we adopt this map, it will be destructive,” Briscoe warned. “Voters are frustrated. Voters are mad and angry.”

The shifting lines mean some incumbents will have to face each other in next year’s elections. Democratic Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, is now in the same district as Draper Republican Jeff Stenquist.

Rep. Judy Weeks-Rohner, R-West Valley City, officially took her seat on Tuesday, replacing Republican Craig Hall. She was shifted into the same district as Rep. Mike Winder, R-West Valley City, so she’ll have to battle him in a primary for the GOP nomination next year.

The House map passed 60-12. The Senate approved it by a 25-3 vote shortly after that.

Senate maps

Lawmakers who designed the state Senate maps tried their best to “keep the base of our core districts,” recognizing that voters have already chosen legislators to represent them, said Sen. Scott Sandall, who helped lead the redistricting effort.

Sen. Wayne Harper added that the map was as compact as possible, given the state’s vast rural areas, and argued that the GOP majority listened to Democratic colleagues while they were crafting it.

“We’ve had people from both parties in our chamber submit maps,” the Taylorsville Republican said. “And I’ve been able to brag upon what we’ve been doing in this body to people.”

Harper said the final map version drew upon the Democrats’ proposed design for Salt Lake County districts.

Still, Democrat Sen. Kathleen Riebe made an attempt to swap out Sandall’s proposal with a different map design recommended by the independent redistricting commission.

Riebe of Cottonwood Heights noted that most of the state’s voters supported this independent system — and said she wanted to honor those constituents by bringing forward a proposal produced through that process. She made a similar attempt to promote one of the independent commission’s suggested House district maps, but both efforts failed.

The Senate voted 26-2 in favor of the district plan presented by Sandall, R-Tremonton.

State school board

The Utah House made a slight adjustment to the State School Board map proposal to keep some parts of Davis County together. Those revisions passed the House 59-11.

The Senate signed off on those changes before sending the maps to Gov. Spencer Cox for his signature.