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Utah’s Republican-led legislature approved a new congressional map that would split populous Salt Lake County into four districts and solidify the political position of Rep. Burgess Owens (R), who narrowly unseated a House Democrat last year.
Gov. Spencer Cox (R) plans to sign the four-district map (H.B. 2004) into law after the state House passed it 50-22 on Tuesday and the state Senate cleared it 21-7 on Wednesday, mostly along party lines.
Under the new lines, Republicans would be favored to maintain their 4-0 advantage in Utah’s House delegation.
The map would benefit Owens by giving his 4th District less of Salt Lake County—which includes the state capital of Salt Lake City and voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 election—and more of Utah County, a Republican bastion. In the new 4th, Donald Trump would have defeated Biden by 60%-34%, compared with Trump’s more modest 52%-43% win under the current lines.
Owens defeated incumbent Democrat Ben McAdams by 1 percentage point in 2020, two years after McAdams won the seat from Republican Mia Love.
The new map would maintain Republican-leaning districts for Reps. Blake Moore in the northern 1st District, Chris Stewart in the western and southwestern 2nd District, and John Curtis in the eastern and southeastern 3rd District.
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Salt Lake Split
Democratic legislators decried the four-way split of Salt Lake County, which provided more than half of all the votes Biden received in Utah.
“Intentionally splitting the vote of Salt Lake County more than twice that of any other county, in my opinion, is unconscionable,” state Sen. Derek Kitchen (D) said during floor debate Wednesday. “It serves no other purpose other than diluting the franchise of its residents. One-third of the state’s population live right here in Salt Lake County.”
Eric Holder, a former U.S. attorney general who is chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said the legislature “completely disregarded” nonpartisan maps recommended by Utah’s advisory redistricting commission, which was established by a 2018 statewide ballot initiative.
State Sen. Scott Sandall (R), who sponsored the new map, said Utah would benefit from having each of its four House members represent a mix of urban and rural areas.
“I put a very high priority on putting an urban and rural foothold in each of the congressional districts, so that as those congresspeople go back and represent us, they come back and they report both to urban and rural Utah,” Sandall said during floor debate.
To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at email@example.com