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Utah Legislature's Redistricting Committee approves preliminary Senate map that divides Tooele County

By Lisa Riley Roche  |  Posted Sep 12th, 2011 @ 8:00pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — A legislative committee quickly approved a new state Senate district map Monday without any concessions to concerns raised about how it splits Tooele County.

The unanimous vote came soon after some members spent more than an hour behind closed doors, delaying the start of the meeting.

"We looked at a lot of options," said the committee's co-Chairman Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe. "At this point we are where we were."

Okerlund said the problem was that any change made to keep from dividing Tooele County among two Senate districts affected the boundaries of other districts.

"We looked very hard," he said.

That didn't satisfy Tooele County GOP Chairman Chris Sloan. He and others urged lawmakers to put all of the county into a single Senate district.

"It's no surprise how I feel about this map. We were clear about it last week," Sloan told the committee. "It still leaves us with a third of two seats."

He said he was disappointed. "I'll be quite frank with you, we're at the point right now where we don't care about the ripple effect," Sloan said.


A former Democratic state representative from Tooele, James Gowans, said the changes to the district boundaries statewide are "basically doing away with rural Utah" in the Legislature.

Sarge Froehle, another proponent of keeping Tooele together, said the intent is to ensure the county's residents are represented in the Senate.

"It appears people are being herded, not heard. We're trying so hard and so desperately to get down to one person, one vote," Froehle said. "I think we have to look more at what people have been asking for rather than you are desiring."

A former Democratic state representative from Tooele, James Gowans, said the changes to the district boundaries statewide are "basically doing away with rural Utah" in the Legislature.

He said keeping Tooele together wouldn’t guarantee a senator would be elected from the country, since there are only enough residents to make up two-thirds of a district.

Okerlund said work will continue on the map of the 29 districts, calling it a starting point. The senate's minority Democrats are still looking at proposing some changes, especially since the map shifts some Rose Park and Capitol Hill residents into a Davis County district.

Also Monday, the committee started detailing a proposed map of the 75 state House districts that includes reducing the number of Salt Lake County seats from 30 to 28 and boosting the number of seats in Utah and other counties.

The committee has one more meeting scheduled, on Sept. 22, before the Oct. 3 special session set to approve final boundaries for legislative, congressional and State School Board districts. But work is expected to continue through Sept. 28.

Every 10 years, lawmakers are charged with adjusting those boundaries to reflect the population changes identified in the national census. The 2010 Census gave Utah a new, fourth seat in Congress.

The state's current, three-member congressional delegation has been invited to attend the Sept. 22 meeting and present their own proposed maps.

Email:lroche@ksl.com

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