By: Maxfield Daley-Watson
After the 2010 census, Utah gained one congressional district, giving the state a total of four federal congressional seats. In 2011, when the state drew its new legislative map, the process was conducted by the state’s Republican controlled legislature. This process resulted in the creation of three heavily conservative districts and one Republican leaning district. In 2018 voters narrowly approved Proposition 4, a ballot initiative directed at creating an independent bipartisan commission with the intention of creating fairer maps. The plan for this independent commission was then edited and eventually implemented through the passage of Senate Bill 200. As a result, SB 200 appropriated 1 million dollars for the independent redistricting commission. In a less positive move, the bill also shifted the independent commission to an advisory role with the ability to draft maps that are then voted on by the state legislature. This is possible because Utah allows the state legislature to amend any enacted statute with a simple majority vote. According to Better Boundaries, the organization behind Proposition 4, the impetus for the legislative overhaul on the redistricting commission centered around the unwillingness of state law makers to place a prohibition on partisan gerrymandering in the redistricting process. Furthermore, the Utah Constitution vests redistricting power in the hands of the legislature, which added an additional wrinkle to the implementation of Proposition 4.
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