CLC Argues in Support of Utah Voters’ Challenge to Gerrymandered Congressional Map

A skyline of city buildings in front of snow covered mountains
Salt Lake City, Utah

This week, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) is representing Utah voters in court to oppose the Utah Legislature’s attempt to prevent the plaintiffs’ lawsuit challenging Utah’s gerrymandered congressional map from moving forward.  

In 2018, Utah voters passed a bipartisan citizen initiative called Proposition 4 (Prop 4), also known as Better Boundaries. This initiative prohibited partisan gerrymandering – the practice of a political party manipulating district lines to give members of their party an unfair advantage in elections – and established the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission.

Like other independent redistricting commissions, the goal of Utah’s was to have an independent body draw district lines to ensure that voters could elect their preferred candidates, rather than having politicians pick their voters. 

When Utahns passed Prop 4, voters made it clear that they wanted an independent, nonpartisan commission to draw their voting maps in a fair and transparent way.

But in 2020, the Utah Legislature overruled the will of the voters and repealed Prop 4, rolling back the prohibition on partisan gerrymandering and violating Utahns’ constitutionally guaranteed right to reform their government.  

When the legislature repealed Prop 4, they discarded the voters’ desired reforms and chose instead to serve their own political interests. 

The legislature created a different commission that proceeded in an advisory capacity but then it ignored the Commission’s proposed nonpartisan redistricting plans. Instead, the legislature devised a gerrymandered congressional map that carves up Salt Lake County, home to Utah’s largest concentration of non-Republican voters, among the state’s four congressional districts.  

The challenged map exemplifies how a ruling party skews the electoral process and dilutes the voting strength of certain voters from a disfavored party by cracking them across multiple congressional districts.  

The gerrymandered district lines are designed to lock in one-party control of Utah’s congressional delegation and reliably ensure that there are no competitive districts in Utah for the next 10 years.  

CLC and Utah partners are representing the League of Women Voters of Utah, Mormon Women for Ethical Government and a bipartisan mix of individual voters, who filed a lawsuit in March 2022 arguing that the enacted congressional map and the repeal of Prop 4 violate the Utah Constitution.   

Now, the same politicians that gerrymandered Utah’s congressional map and repealed the people’s citizen initiative are pulling out all the stops to keep the lawsuit from moving forward. The plaintiffs recently succeeded in persuading the court to reject the Legislature’s attempt to have the court indeterminately put the case on hold based on a fringe legal theory.  

The legislature also moved to dismiss the lawsuit altogether, arguing that Utahns can never seek to protect their constitutional rights against the legislature’s gerrymandering.  

Utah’s Legislature would rather pull legal maneuvers than defend its actions in court. On August 24, CLC will fight the Utah Legislature’s move to dismiss the lawsuit.  

Ultimately, the court should block the gerrymandered map for the 2024 elections and reinstate the anti-gerrymandering reforms Utahns voted to enact in Prop 4.  

Every Utahn deserves to vote under fair maps so they can choose their own politicians, instead of politicians choosing their voters. CLC and our partners will keep working to protect the will of Utahns who are fighting for a government that is truly of, by and for the people of Utah.  

Hayden is a Legal Counsel, Litigation at CLC.
Who Are the Utahns Demanding Fair Maps?