Democrats challenge legality of proposed redistricting plan

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SALT LAKE CITY -- If the proposed congressional map currently being debated remains unchanged, Utah Democrats have promised they will file a lawsuit, which is something they didn't do a decade ago in the last round of redistricting. But prevailing in the court over maps drawn for redistricting is not an easy task.

In the debates about redistricting, Democrats wanted a donut hole, with three urban districts surrounded by a rural district. But the Republicans wanted the so-called pizza slice, which cut up Salt Lake County in three pieces.

Legal experts say it is unlikely the court will reject the pizza slice map, which is the map legislators will vote on this week.

"We asked for a donut," said Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon. "We expected a pizza, but we were served a plate of scrambled eggs." Corroon went on to say that the congressional maps are "downright rigged," unfair and even "un-American."

Republicans argue the proposed maps meet the standard of one person, one vote. But Democrats claim the standard is not enough.

We asked for a donut. We expected a pizza, but we were served a plate of scrambled eggs.

–Peter Carroon

"But the question is of fairness, due process, 14th Amendment argument -- equal protection," said University of Utah political science professor Tim Chambless.

Kelli Lundgren of Represent Me Utah added, "40 percent of our voters vote Democratic and 60 percent Republican, so it shouldn't be as lopsided as it is."

But Republicans believe their maps are entirely legal and defensible.

"We've done our homework," said Rep. Paul Ray of Clearfield. "The numbers are there. The deviations are zero practically in every one of these maps. We've stayed within the guidelines the courts have set in the past."

Attorney for the Utah Citizens Council David Irvine agrees with the Republicans, saying the maps will likely be upheld in court. "When the Republican leadership says this is a bulletproof plan, from a judicial standpoint, that is probably true; it's a political issue."

"I think their chances of success are very low," said Executive Director of Hinckley Institute of Politics Kirk Jowers. Redistricting cases are seldom filed because they're expensive and a legal victory is even more rare, Jowers added.

"One problem for Utah Democrats is that Republicans have such overwhelming majorities everywhere," Jowers said. "It's harder to see where you really go after a partisan advantage."

Meanwhile, Democratic Party chair Jim Dabakis sent a note -- a friendly reminder -- to majority Republicans to preserve all their documents and emails about redistricting, just in case a lawsuit is filed.



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