Redistricting in Utah – What educators need to know…

If you’ve ever questioned decisions made by your state or local school board, members of Congress or the state legislature, now is the time to get involved. The nation is in the process of “redistricting” or drawing new boundaries for its voting districts. Here in Utah, elected representatives responsible for the redistricting process are holding a series of meetings across the state to get citizen input. LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!

Below are some frequently asked questions about the redistricting process, including some messages you can share during the meeting to be held in your area:

What is redistricting?

Redistricting is the process of drawing new district boundaries for congressional, legislative and state school board districts based on Utah’s resident population. Every ten years, the Legislature redraws district boundaries based on the results of the most recent population data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This data determines the ideal size of Utah’s Congressional, State Senate, State House of Representatives and State Board of Education districts.

What should I say if I make a public comment at a redistricting meeting?

Here are a few things to consider sharing in a public meeting:

  • Thank the Commissioners/Legislators for traveling to your community and listening to the public’s concerns.
  • Acknowledge that districts for the Utah State Board of Education don’t receive as much attention as the more controversial Congressional and Legislative districts.
  • As an educator, fair representation on the Utah State Board of Education is important to me and my students.
  • Because we care for our students, our colleagues, and our neighbors, and value our community, we must ensure that every individual is able to participate in democracy.
  • Fair districts should keep communities of interest together. (I.e. rural areas, urban areas, suburban areas, school districts, cities, counties etc.)
  • Ensure local school districts are not divided.

What should I NOT say if I make a public comment?

Here are some things to avoid:

  • Instead of “redistricting,” use “drawing voting maps” or “fair districting.”
  • Instead of “gerrymandering” say “carving up communities/neighborhoods.”
  • Instead of saying “compactness, contiguity, or competitiveness,” say “Transparent, impartial, fair.”
  • Arguments to stay away from:
    • Procedural
    • Partisan/Negative
    • Centering a geographic area as a victim

Why redistrict?

Different regions of the state grow at significantly different rates. For example, according to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, the average growth in Utah is 18.1 percent. Utah County grew at an estimated 29.3 percent, whereas Salt Lake County grew at 12.9 percent. If these estimates are accurate, Salt Lake County will lose seats, whereas Utah County will gain seats.

Although this example demonstrates that legislative districts become unequal over time, this concept is also true for congressional and state school board districts. Redistricting is required to ensure that there is an equal number of constituents in each type of district.

Who is responsible for redistricting?

The U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the responsibility of determining how to elect people to fill congressional seats and other state-level offices. Article IX, Section 1 of the Utah Constitution requires the Utah Legislature to divide the state into new congressional and legislative districts no later than the first general session after it receives the official resident population data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Legislature will also consider feedback from the Legislative Redistricting Committee, the Independent Redistricting Committee, and the public.

When and where will Utah redistricting meetings be held?

The Utah Legislative Redistricting Committee and the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission will hold public hearings across the state before recommending new district boundaries to the Legislature. Public hearings provide Utahns the opportunity to participate in the redistricting process by offering recommendations and suggestions before new boundaries are drawn. All Utahns are invited to participate in these hearings and encouraged to draw their maps at https://redistricting.utah.gov/maps/.

What other ways can I influence state and local elections?

Voting is always the primary way to impact elections, but you can also make a difference for education by contributing to the UEA Political Action Committee. Since no UEA member dues are used for political parties or candidates, UEA-PAC allows educators to have a voice in political issues affecting children and public education. UEA-PAC is directed and run by classroom teacher members from throughout the state.