Could redistricting commission create a safe Democratic congressional district?

On this November’s ballot will be a citizen initiative proposal that, if passed by voters, will set up a bipartisan, independent citizen commission that will redraw U.S. House and state legislative districts following the 2020 Census.

Earlier this week I wrote a story about a remarkable political map put together by the New York Times, which shows the 2016 presidential voting for all the precincts in the United States.

Quite an amazing accomplishment – that allows you to zoom in to your voting district, neighborhood, city, county and state to see how Americans voted.

One thing the map clearly shows:

If Utahns approve the boundary commission law, depending on how the new commission acts, we could see a Democratic U.S. House member come the 2022 election.


Because the boundary commission petition says that the new members CAN NOT use partisan voting patterns in drawing the new districts.

They MUST use political subdivision boundaries – like city and county boundaries – as the major factor, along with natural geography, communities of interest, and such. Of course, to meet equal population requirements, some cities, counties and communities of interest will have to be split up.

The new commissioners also can’t use where an incumbent lives as part of their considerations.

Salt Lake City – the state’s largest city by population – has been split up by the GOP Legislature in redistricting for generations.

The result is that the many Democrats in the city have had a Republican U.S. House member “representing” them for years.

Of course, the man or woman who “represents” parts of the city really isn’t doing so – because these Democrats hate just about everything their Republican House member does.

Utah won’t get a fifth U.S. House seat in the next Census – even though the state has been growing quickly.

The numbers just aren’t there. Maybe we’ll get a fifth seat in the 2030 Census.

So, the current four U.S. House districts will be redrawn, and the population of each will be more than the 425,000 or so carved up in the 2011 redistricting by the Legislature.

If you look at the New York Times map, found here, you’ll see very blue, Democratic, areas in Salt Lake City and areas just to the south and east.

The city isn’t large enough populationwise to be its own U.S. House seat.

But if the new commission keeps the city whole, it by far would be the major voting bloc in one of the new four districts.

And most likely, if that is done, there will be a Democratic-leaning voting populace in a Salt Lake City-based U.S. House seat.

Now, we’ve had Democratic U.S. House members from time to time recently – the last being former Rep. Jim Matheson who had to fight hard to keep his new 4th District seat in 2012 – after the 2011 gerrymandering by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Matheson was a moderate-to-conservative Democrat – he had to be to hold his old 2nd District seat for a decade.

But a Salt Lake City-based U.S. House seat would allow, most probably, a progressive to be elected, perhaps even (oh, the horror of it!) a non-Mormon.

In short, the Times map shows that if the boundary commission passes in November – and look for some partisan GOP groups to be opposing it – and if the new commission operates like the new law says, and doesn’t consider partisan voting patterns but city and county boundaries and the common interests of groups of potential voters, then we could see some really interesting races and election results come 2022 and beyond.

And it will all start with the vote this November.