SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Legislature leaders on Friday revealed the members who will serve on a 20-person committee tasked with helping craft the state's voting boundaries for the next decade.
The group committee is separate from the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission, which was formed earlier this year after it was first created through the passage of 2018's Proposition 4, and conducted its first meeting earlier this week.
The independent commission is tasked with providing feedback and information to the legislative committee, which, in turn, makes a recommendation to the Utah Legislature about the final voting maps in the state. The maps voted on later this year will include the congressional, legislative and school board districts for the next 10 years.
In all, the legislative committee announced Friday was composed of 15 Republicans and five Democrats. Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, and Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, were named its co-chairs.
The full committee is:
- Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, Chair
- Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, Chair
- Senate Majority Assistant Kirk Cullimore, R-Draper
- Senate Minority Caucus Manager Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City
- Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan
- Senate Budget Vice Chairman Don Ipson, R-St. George
- Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City
- Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork
- Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield
- Rep. Jeff Burton, R-Salem
- Rep. Joel Ferry, R-Brigham City
- Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City
- Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane
- Rep. Steve Lund, R-Manti
- Rep. Ashlee Matthews, D-West Jordan
- Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville
- Rep. Val Petersen, R-Orem
- Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman
- Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy
- House Minority Caucus Manager Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy
Sandall told KSL.com Friday that he was excited for the experience and believes the members selected to be on the committee will bring different experiences and expertises needed for the task at hand.
"I think we've got a really, really great committee put together — great diversity from different political parties to geography. (There is) a lot of great mix in what I see in the redistricting committee," he said.
Across the aisle, House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, lauded the members selected to the committee in 2021. He, along with Mayne, helped recommend Democratic Party to be added to the committee.
"I think that's a solid group of people … there's some good names in there," he told KSL.com shortly after the names were announced.
Given the makeup of the state's population of registered voters and legislature's party affiliations, King added wasn't all surprised by the breakdown of Republicans and Democrats within the redistricting committee. He said he also wasn't concerned with the breakdown by party affiliation.
"I think the ratio is a reflection of the number of Democrats and Republicans that exists (in the state)," he said. "Those are numbers that we deal with all the time up there and they require that Democrats come up with solid positions, bills and arguments, and that we the best job that we can in establishing good relationships with our Republican friends, and that we work well together, be civil with each other, that we hear and listen and understand where the other side is coming from before we insist they understand where we're coming from."
The plan moving forward
The newly formed 20-member committee is expected to hold some preparatory meetings as early as next month but will begin to meet in earnest once the final 2020 Census data is handed over to states.
The data is usually submitted in the spring the year after a Census; however, that's not the case this time around. Since the Census Bureau is in the middle of massive information delays tied to mostly COVID-19 issues, Utah's legislative members still don't expect to receive important 2020 Census data needed for redistricting until the end of September.
This census data delay led to one bill related to the independent redistricting commission's deadline. The commission was originally scheduled to complete their process by Aug. 1 but a bill that passed the legislative session pushed that back to Nov. 1 to account for the Census Bureau delays.
Even though that delay exists, the commission, committee and legislature will still need to complete a final map before congressional canvassing begins. That kicks off at the start of 2022.
We're much better as a legislature when we're listening carefully to what the people of the state of Utah say and when they're speaking loudly, letting us know how they feel.
–House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City
Sandall viewed the census information delay and squished redistricting timeline as the biggest challenge the committee will face. Most of its meetings will begin in October after it has the data.
"It's going to be a very stressful September-November for those folks," King added, noting that the committee and the state as a whole is dealing with "uncharted territory."
The delay and issues tied to COVID-19 also means how the committee collects data from the public will be different from previous redistricting cycles. In the past, legislators would normally hold meetings throughout the summer gathering input for redistricting maps.
There are no plans to cut out all the same feedback but he said it will have to be "condensed," Sandall said. Public meetings all over Utah would likely happen in October, although it's unclear how many the committee would be able to host.
"We'll also have an interactive way for people to go online and draw their own maps, and input those maps for our consideration," he said. "At that point in time, the independent redistricting commission maps will also come to us sometime in November. We'll try to get all the input down by the middle of November and then we'll get together as a committee a few times and try to get some ideas we can bring back to the legislature."
Sandall added that he anticipated the committee's process would wrap up by the end of November and that the final legislative vote on the 2020s voting maps will be completed in early December.
It's expected that committee input meetings will include virtual attendance. The committee announcement comes just a few days after the independent commission's first meeting ended early after individuals "Zoom-bombed" the event and created enough online chaos that the commission ended its first ever meeting early.
What happened Tuesday wasn't at all the virtual experience that the state legislature had throughout the 2021 Legislative Session, Sandall said. He believed the committee's meetings would follow a similar structure as the legislature.
"In all the interaction we had back and forth, we didn't have a snafu, so I'm assuming that we'll be able to do some of those same techniques," Sandall said. "I would suspect that we'll probably be OK moving forward with the lessons that we learned in session to be able to have some sort of hybrid situation in our meetings."
Information about those meetings will likely be posted closer to the time the census data arrives in September. The independent commission, in the meantime, will continue to meet throughout the summer.
Both Sandall and King said they hoped Utahns would follow along and participate in processes over the next few months tied to both the commission and the committee.
"Your voice is absolutely critical to be heard," King said. "I hope that people follow this process both for the independent redistricting commission and for the legislative redistricting committee. I hope they follow it; I hope they raise their voices; I hope they make their preferences known. We're much better as a legislature when we're listening carefully to what the people of the state of Utah say and when they're speaking loudly, letting us know how they feel."