Utah House approves new congressional maps

SALT LAKE CITY — The Republican-controlled Utah House approved new congressional maps Tuesday that set aside the work of a voter-approved independent redistricting commission in favor of boundaries that further carve up the Democratic-leaning Salt Lake County.

The maps were passed by a vote of 50 to 22, over opposition from minority Democrats who urged lawmakers to support redistricting maps created by the commission. “This disenfranchises the city voter and it doesn’t need to,” said Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, a Salt Lake City Democrat.

But Republican Rep. Paul Ray, who helped draw the newly approved maps, said they better reflect the state as a whole by including a mix of urban and rural voters. “Population data drives what we do,” he said.

The bill now goes to the state Senate.

The new districts will determine how voters elect members of Congress for the next decade. While much of Utah is conservative, one of its four congressional districts has been a swing district. The new maps will likely make the 4th District more reliably Republican by carving liberal-leaning Salt Lake County into four districts rather than the three it’s divided into now.

Some Republicans also voted against the new plan, including Rep. Ray Ward: “There need to be places where people know it might go either way,” he said.

The vote comes a day after dozens of frustrated people packed a hearing to ask lawmakers to use one of the maps created by the independent Utah Redistricting Commission. It was created after a slim majority of voters approved a ballot initiative in 2018, but lawmakers were under no obligation to use one of the maps they drafted.

House leaders said they did take some of the commission results into account into the creation of the new maps, but said the state constitution gives them the authority to draw new legislative districts.

“Elected officials in the Legislature take their responsibility really seriously to do what they think is right,” Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson said.

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