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Redistricting committee meets for first time

By | Posted - Apr. 25, 2011 at 12:30 p.m.

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We want to hear from you. We have activated our beta comment board system for this article while we are testing it. Please comment on the story and share your thoughts. SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah legislators are beginning a redistricting process that could further strengthen Republican numbers in an already GOP-heavy state.

The once-every-10 year process is important because it determines legislative and school board districts.

Republican Rep. Ken Sumsion of American Fork says Monday population changes will shift more voting districts to Utah and Washington counties, as well as suburbs of Salt Lake City.

At the same time, most of the legislative districts held by Democrats had less population gain and some seats will likely be consolidated.

Committee members
From the House:
Curt Webb, R-Logan
Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville
Roger Barrus, R-Centerville
Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake
Todd Kiser, R-Sandy
Merlynn Newbold, R-South Jordan
Mel Brown, R-Coalville
Francis Gibson, R-Spanish Fork
Christine Watkins, D-Price
Don Ipson, R-St. George

From the Senate:
Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe
Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake
Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake
Stuart Reid, R-Ogden;
Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal

The committee will be drawing four congressional districts after Utah earned a new U.S. House seat in the 2010 Census.

Sumsion says politics cannot be avoided in the process but the overall goal is to be fair and transparent.

Some Utahns have been skeptical. For example, some Salt Lake County residents believe they should be represented by a Democrat, but they're not. In some areas of Southern Utah, the opposite is true.

Over the past 10 years, the state has grown from just over 2. 2 million people to 2.7 million people. That allows the state the extra Congressional seat. But it also means that legislative districts must change to keep the numbers equal.

The areas with the biggest change--meaning boundary changes are certain -- are in Wasatch, Washington, Utah and Tooele counties. Changes also are likely for other counties including Davis and southern Salt Lake County.

Utahns will be able to participate in the process like never before thanks to new mapping software that will be available on the state's website in about three weeks.

Other states have adopted an independent redistricting commission to take the politics out of it, but Utah lawmakers feel having them do it is better. Fifteen members of the Utah legislature make up the redistricting committee.

The process is long and very difficult. A final proposal that the Legislature has to approve is expected within five months.

Story written with contributions from the Associated Press and Richard Piatt.

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