Even though the legislative session ended early March of this year, the legislature, and especially the Legislative Redistricting Committee, have been busy working since then. Redistricting is an incredibly complex process that is more difficult because it only happens once a decade, and due to the ongoing pandemic, our timeline was far more condensed.
As members of the Legislative Redistricting Committee, the three of us, along with 17 other legislators and countless staff, have toured the state listening to residents about the needs of their communities. We have absorbed invaluable feedback from the residents of these different communities about the needs and desires regarding their representation.
This may all sound familiar because it’s like what the Independent Redistricting Commission was doing. They also traveled the state, listened to the public, and drew maps. And last week we had the privilege of hearing from them and seeing the maps that they put forward.
It may seem redundant to have two taxpayer-funded groups doing similar work, but we would argue that it is a good thing and even necessary to the process to have this type of repetition. Our work as legislators, who are constitutionally charged with creating new districts, is better because the commission exists. The commission’s desire to involve the public has made our committee more transparent and gave the public an additional avenue to be engaged in the process. Their work has made us look at the needs of communities more closely. The commission’s maps deserve, and will receive, our full consideration.
We recognize the seeming conflict between our two groups. However, we were elected to represent our communities and, hopefully, know them best. It is our job to listen to all the people we represent and make sure that we are doing our best to protect their interests. And after getting to know all the members of the committee, we can confidently say the members are doing a fantastic job advocating for the geographic areas that they represent.
In our last committee meeting, a question was posed to the chair of the commission about what he would consider to be a failure, and he responded that it would be if the commission were no longer around. We echo that sentiment. Redistricting is such an important job, that we need as many people working on it as possible. We only have every decade to get it right, and our process and the final maps were better this year because of the commission.
Rep. Andrew Stoddard (D-Midvale), Rep. Sandra Hollins (D-Salt Lake City), Rep. Ashlee Matthews (D-Kearns) are members of the Utah House of Representatives and the Legislative Redistricting Committee.