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Utah's new independent redistricting commission expects tight timeline on map-making

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Utah's independent redistricting commission is tasked with trying to make the process fairer for deciding representation related to members of Congress, state lawmakers and state school board members. (KUTV)

The state of Utah is now hiring an executive director for its new independent redistricting commission.

The administrator will handle logistics for the group that’s trying to make the process fairer for deciding representation related to members of Congress, state lawmakers and state school board members.

However, the state’s first-ever commission of this kind will be tested by Census data delays.

Brigham Young University professor Rex Facer is chair of the seven-member commission. He was selected by Gov. Spencer Cox. Democrats chose three members, and Republicans chose three members.

We’re committed to the fairness and the independence that the people sought when they voted for us,” Facer said.

Voters established the group through a ballot measure in 2018, and state lawmakers later made changes to make the commission advisory. Legislators have the final say.

Facer said to expect public hearings and an open, public, transparent process on creating the maps.

“We want to minimize as much as possible the chaos of completely throwing everything out, but at the same time we want to start from scratch,” Facer said.

Redistricting is necessary every decade, following the Census, to account for population shifts. In 2010, it was the Utah State Legislature that drew the maps. Some criticized the process as being partisan.

Gigi Brandt, with the League of Women Voters of Utah, is optimistic about the process this time.

“I always think that when anybody making rules is observed, they tend to do a better job,” she said.

Facer hopes support for the final maps is unanimous among the members of the commission. Five of the seven must approve them for the Legislature’s consideration.

The commission can begin the process using preliminary data, but final Census numbers are not expected until September.

“The final sets of maps, we’ll only have a month to get those finalized and to present those to the public,” Facer said, “and we’re committed to doing that in the best way we possibly can on that limited timeline.”

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