This article is co-authored by Ashley Nash and Kate Hickman.
Another decade has passed, and the time has come for redistricting in Utah. For most UVU students, this will be the first time redistricting will take place when they are of voting age. Now is the time for UVU students to become involved in their communities and make a change.
Redistricting is when all district borders in the state are redrawn to fit the community’s needs. After data from the US Census is collected every 10 years, the process of redistricting begins. This includes four districts: congressional, legislative, house of representative and school board districts, according to the Utah Redistricting website.
The process of redistricting in Utah is in the hands of the Utah State Legislature and the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission (UIRC). This year is different because of the UIRC, Utah’s newly elected independent redistricting board. They are an independent committee of seven people who take input from the community concerning where the new district boundaries should be drawn. 2021 will be the first year that the UIRC assists in redistricting, and the role they play is integral: circumventing gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is the process of drawing district lines in favor of a specific political party or individual. BallotPedia states that Gerrymandering takes place when redistricting occurs that violates federal or state laws. It has been used to the aid of racism, classism and other discriminatory practices, and usually employs one of two methods: “cracking” and “packing.” “Cracking” is a method of reducing the voting potential of an opposing party by spreading voters across many districts, whereas “packing” concentrates the voters “into one single district despite living in different areas of the state” in order to keep them from influencing other districts, as stated on PopulationEducation.org.
They go on to provide historical examples of gerrymandering in the United States, including North Carolina’s 12th District, which has a long history of racial districting. The district’s lines have been redrawn five times since 1993, with the most recent outline in February 2016 “after a federal court ruled that the lines had been drawn to concentrate black voters and limit their influence,” as reported by The Guardian.
Unfortunately, this is only one of many examples of gerrymandering, which has taken place in countries all around the world. To combat this practice, in 2018, Proposition 4 was passed in Utah, assigning an independent committee (UIRC) to aid in redistricting.
The UIRC will put together maps based on public input, and submit these maps to the legislature. The legislature then redraws the state’s districts based on input from the UIRC, the public and decisions within the legislature. The legislature takes into consideration the needs of the community when drawing these borders, which is why members of the public are encouraged to get involved in the process of redistricting.
The public hearing for Utah County will be held in Orem, in the UVU Grande Ballroom, on Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. During these hearings, members of the UIRC will be present to ascertain the concerns of the community, and review maps drawn by attendees of the hearing. Better Boundaries of Utah provides a template on their website where people can draw their own district map.