Learn about community districting and how it impacts you
WHAT IS REDISTRICTING?
In 2021, Utah lawmakers will draw new voting maps for local, state, and congressional districts. The process of drawing the boundaries of these voting maps is often called redistricting, we prefer the term community districting because it’s more accurate.
Community districting is the foundation for who wins elections, what communities are represented, and what policies are passed into law.
This process only happens once every 10 years. A lot can happen over 10 years: students graduate from college, families and neighborhoods grow, and technology makes unimaginable strides (would you ask someone for their fax number in 2021?) 20 year-olds today were 10 the last time community districting happened, and they’ll be 30 the next time. It’s important to make sure the process is fair because we’ll be living with the outcome for a long time.
Why do new lines need to be drawn anyway?
District maps are drawn based on data from the U.S. Census (which also happens once every 10 years), which gives us important information about who is living in an area. If the population in an area has changed since the last U.S. Census, district lines need to be redrawn in order to reflect that and properly serve the residents of the area.
WHO DRAWS THE LINES?
The independent commission recommends maps to the legislature, who has the final say.
The state legislature has the ultimate power over drawing new voting maps for Utah, and they have their own committee for assessing maps. But for the first time, Utah has an independent redistricting commission thanks to a ballot proposition passed by voters in 2018.
The independent commission is in charge of gathering public input and recommending fair maps to lawmakers. Those lawmakers can then choose to adopt the impartial maps put forward by the independent commission, or it they choose to reject them and draw their own lines instead.
WHAT IS GERRYMANDERING?
Gerrymandering is the process of unfairly drawing district maps to favor one group over the other.
While the following examples are an oversimplification,
you can see that depending on where you draw the line, you can unfairly advantage one group over another.
THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM
In 1812 the Massachusetts legislature drew maps to favor Democratic-Republican party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists, this political cartoon satirizes the bizarre shape of a district as a dragon-like “monster”, which was compared to a salamander, hence “mander“.
GERRYMANDERING IN UTAH
The last time redistricting happened in Utah, lawmakers unfairly manipulated voting districts to keep themselves in power.
Maps should be drawn to serve the people, not politicians.
This year, Utah has the opportunity to get it right and make fair maps. We all want a strong democracy where all Utah voters can have fair representation, regardless of their race, income, or zip code.
WHY DOES REDISTRICTING MATTER?
Community districting (or redistricting) impacts every part of your life.
From education to immigration, from healthcare to clean air, community districting is at the core of all the public policies that directly impact you. By giving input on what Utah’s voting maps should look like, you can give your community a voice and help shape everything that happens for the next 10 years.
Previous DATES IN THE 2021 COMMUNITY DISTRICTING PROCESS
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Process of redrawing the districts within a jurisdiction to reflect the results of the reapportioning process as well as the results of the Census; for example, congressional district boundaries may be changed to account for population shifts within a state.
Drawing a district with boundaries that favor one or more groups of voters and/or some candidates over others.
Process of surveying and counting the U.S. population, using mailed surveys and in-person visits to homes, mandated by the U.S. Constitution and done every ten years by the federal government. Its results are used for reapportioning House seats among the states and redistricting districts within states. The last Census took place in 2020.
Group of people in a geographical area, such as a specific region or neighborhood, who have common political, social, or economic interests. Examples of COI’s are groups who are committed to preserving a local park, creating a new subway line in a city or achieving increased funding for a community college.
Minimizing the distance between all parts of a district. There are many types of compactness measures including: area dispersion and perimeter.
A district that is within one continuous boundary and whose parts all touch one another at more than a point. All districts in the United States must be contiguous, however, some districts stretch the limits of this requirement by connecting different landmasses through water or having two districts intersect at a single point that takes up no area.
Boundaries that define the constituency of an elected official. A district can include one or more elected legislators.