Utah Redistricting: No Reform for 2011

Despite an effort by a group called Fair Boundaries, Utah will not reform its redistricting process before the 2011 cycle.  The Fair Boundaries group tried to put a redistricting reform initiative on the 2010 ballot that, if it had been approved, would have reformed redistricting on the congressional, state legislative, and school board levels in 2011.  According to the Fair Boundaries site, the reform would have created an eleven person independent commission (that included no more than four people from the same party).  The members of this panel would have been selected by Utah Association of Counties, Utah League of Cities and Towns, and the State School Board.  It would also include four citizen applicants “selected by the first seven appointees.”  However, the Fair Boundaries initiative did not get enough signatures to be on the ballot.  Per the Associated Press:

Fair Boundaries field director Glenn Wright says the group gathered about 50,000 signatures, well short of the 95,000 they needed by Thursday.

The Fair Boundaries initiative would have set up an independent redistricting commission to redraw U.S. House, legislative and State School Board districts after the 2010 Census. The Legislature would still get the final say on recommendations made by the commission.

The state legislature currently draws the district lines in Utah, subject to the Governor’s veto. Utah is a very Republican state, and Republicans control both houses of the state legislature. The redistricting process will remain partisan and controlled by Republicans in 2011. This may be somewhat worrying for Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson, who won with 63% of the vote in 2008 but is in a district with a +15 Republican partisan voting index rating according to the Cook Political Report.  Matheson is unlikely to lose in 2010, but the Republicans in the legislature will probably try to redraw his district during 2011 redistricting to add more Republicans and make his reelection in 2012 more difficult.

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