Independent redistricting supporters bracing for challenge
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Supporters of a push to create an independent redistricting commission in Utah are steeling themselves for a potential challenge to the ballot initiative that voters narrowly passed into law last year.
Leaders of the effort aimed at combatting gerrymandering say they’re staying vigilant amid talk of a possible lawsuit to challenge the voter-approved law, the Deseret News reports .
“We’re going to be vigilant. We’re going to be present. And we’re prepared through either a campaign or legal means to defend that,” said Jeff Wright, a Republican who co-chairs the group behind Proposition 4.
Lawmakers have already made changes to a ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana in a compromise with advocates and have discussed changing another ballot measure expanding Medicaid.
Though no bills have yet been filed for the upcoming 2019 Legislature dealing with redistricting, Republican Sen. Todd Weiler said he’ll be pushing his colleagues to challenge the proposition in court.
“I’d like to see the courts rule on the constitutionality,” he said.
Republican Sen. Ralph Okerlund said a lawsuit is among several options lawmakers are considering.
The measure that passed in November changes the process for creating legislative districts for the once-a-decade mandatory redistricting coming after the 2020 census. It would create a seven-member commission to draw districts, though lawmakers still would have to approve the boundary lines.
It narrowly won approval with just over 50 percent of the vote.
Previously, the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature passed redistricting plans by a majority vote, subject to a gubernatorial veto.
Critics have said that the state’s congressional map unfairly carves up liberal-leaning Salt Lake City. The new commission is aimed at avoiding gerrymandering, defined as the manipulation of political boundaries to favor one candidate or party over another.
Wright sounded a warning to opponents who may want to challenge the measure in court.
“To say, ‘We like gerrymandering, we’re going to change the will of the people,’ that’s very unpopular,” he said.