In 2018, a coalition of Utah voters from across the political spectrum passed a citizen initiative called Proposition 4 (Prop 4), popularly known as Better Boundaries. Among other reforms, the initiative prohibited partisan gerrymandering and established the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission (Commission). Independent redistricting commissions are a voter-centric reform used to ensure that voters – not partisan politicians – decide how electoral districts are drawn. These impartial commissions are an important tool to reinforce that democracy works by voters choosing their politicians, not politicians choosing their voters.
In 2020, however, the Utah Legislature overruled the will of voters and repealed Prop 4 to replace it with S.B. 200, which rescinded the prohibition on partisan gerrymandering among other key good government reforms. While S.B. 200 allowed the Commission to continue in an advisory capacity, without Prop 4’s protections, the Utah Legislature had free reign to discard the Commission’s nonpartisan maps and draw a congressional map that served its own self-interests, instead of the interests of voters. Before the Commission could even finish its work, the Legislature disregarded the Commission’s findings and devised its own extreme partisan gerrymandered map, which locks in one-party control of Utah’s congressional delegation for the next decade while silencing voters with minority political viewpoints.
The Utah Legislature’s map, called the 2021 Congressional Plan, exemplifies how a ruling political party can skew the electoral process by “cracking” voters from the minority party into multiple congressional districts to dilute their voting power. The 2021 Congressional Plan carves up Salt Lake County, home to Utah’s largest concentration of non-Republican voters, among all four congressional districts – reliably ensuring that there are no competitive districts in Utah’s congressional delegation for the foreseeable future.
CLC and co-counsel filed the suit against the Utah State Legislature and other defendants on behalf of LWV, MWEG and seven plaintiffs who live in Salt Lake County. The lawsuit argues that the new congressional map cracks voters from minority viewpoints to dilute their power, which violates the Utah Constitution’s Free Elections Clause, Uniform Operation of Laws Clause and enshrined protections for free speech and the right to vote. Additionally, the legislature’s repeal of Proposition 4 violated Utahns’ constitutionally guaranteed lawmaking power and right to reform their government.
The plaintiffs ask the court to block implementation of the partisan gerrymandered map outlined in the 2021 Congressional Plan for the 2024 election and all future elections, and to reinstate the anti-gerrymandering reforms voters approved in Proposition 4.