The Legislature has narrowed down its maps for Utah’s new congressional districts down to six. Five of those plans are variations of the “pizza” map that slices up Utah’s urban, democratic center around Salt Lake County.
The sixth map is barely a “donut-hole” variation favored by Democrats, even though it carves up Salt Lake County into three pieces. In the battle to define Utah’s political maps that will guide voters in selecting their congressional representatives in Washington, D.C., the Legislature’s redistricting committee came into Thursday’s meeting knowing they had to narrow down to six a short list of 15 maps proposed by legislators, citizens and activist groups and that the process was not going to make everyone happy.
Both expectations were met in the meeting.
The set of maps to consider for final approval early next week came down to six, with none of the maps being truly favored by the Donut crowd who worried that Utah’s urban core -- a Democratic stronghold -- would be diluted by being combined with large rural swaths of the state.
To see all the finalist maps, visit the Legislature’s redistricting page here.
Among the losers was the Fair Boundaries map, which proposed essentially three donut holes roughly encompassing Utah, Salt Lake, Weber and Davis Counties and a fourth district taking up the remaining, largely rural body of the state.
The Fair Boundaries plan garnered only three votes -- all Democrat -- from the 19-member committee.
Represent Me Utah
Another prominent donut the committee passed on was one presented by nonpartisan redistricting group Represent Me Utah. This plan garnered seven votes from the committee including approval from powerful Republicans like Sen. Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, but still got pushed from the menu.
Connor made impassioned arguments to the committee that the will of Utahns statewide was for a donut plan, referencing informal polling she had done on her group’s Website and a recent Salt Lake Tribune/Mason-Dixon Research poll that found 53 percent of Utahns preferred the Donut plan, compared to 40 percent supporting the Pizza plan, statewide.
“[The need for a Donut map] was the essence of the voter input in regards to this debate,” Connor told City Weekly. “Voters really supported donut-hole maps in the final map review.”
The map got seven votes, but did not move on to the finalist’s round.
Pizza on Steroids “Sumsion 5”
Not all pizzas were appetizing to the committee. Committee Chair Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, failed to get his “pizza on steroids” map through to the next round. Sumsion admitted that the urban-rural mix was important to him so that all of Utah’s federal delegation would be involved in the public-lands debate with the federal government, an issue he says affects the entire state.
“Children in Salt Lake City receive a lot less money for their education because the federal government in our rural areas doesn’t allow access to develop these lands -- particularly [Bureau of Land Management] lands,” Sumsion said. “Therefore, this map brings in … a significant portion of public lands in all congressional districts.”
While Sumsion’s pumped-up pizza map got nine votes from the committee, it did not become a finalist.
Winners Worth Watching:
Compromise Pizza “Sumsion 6”
While one of Sumsion’s maps failed to make the final menu, two others did that will be contenders for the final pick, including “Sumsion 6,” the Donut/Pizza-hybrid map that, while keeping Salt Lake City whole within its own congressional district, would divide Salt Lake County four ways.
This pie got the thumbs up for the next round of voting by passing with 10 votes.
The Last Donut “Harper 2”
Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, did manage to sneak one modified donut into the final round with a map that creates one district all in Salt Lake County though its south and the west of Salt Lake City proper.
This dessert map gained 13 votes to make it to the final round of maps.
The Hat With Three Stripes “Cox Plan E”
Breaking from foody comparisons, Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley City, offered the “Hat with Three Stripes” plan that gets its name from a district taking the top corner of the state and with three vertical stripes roughly dividing the state from the Wasatch Front down.
“If you want to put something else on the menu, this would be it,” Cox told the committee. While his map cuts Salt Lake County, it doesn’t slash it to pieces.
“It minimizes the impact to Salt Lake County,” Cox said. “If you’re in West Valley City, you know you’re in the 4th District. If you’re in Murray, you know you’re in the 2nd District.”
To see all the finalist maps, check out the Redistricting site here. If the public wants to provide input, they’ll need to do some homework and check out the maps further and show up and speak up at the next meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 27. at 9 a.m. at the Utah State Capitol, 350 N. State, Room 445 State Capitol.