PROVO — Redrawing the boundaries for Utah's three congressional districts could mean splitting Utah and Salt Lake County voting districts down the middle.
That's the proposal Rep. Matt Throckmorton, R-Springville, made at a public hearing in Provo on Thursday. Throckmorton wants to split voting districts in Salt Lake County along I-15 and I-80 and in Utah County along State Street.
Throckmorton's plan "is one of 99," according to Sen. Michael Waddoups, chairman of the Legislative Redistricting Committee, which held public hearings Thursday in Price and Provo. Legislators will not adopt a final plan until October.
In Price, the committee heard emotional pleas not to push longtime Democratic state Sen. Mike Dmitrich into districts held by incumbent Republicans, possibly ending his career and denying Carbon and Emery counties their own state Senate seat.
The congressional redistricting is getting the highest profile. And according to Throckmorton's plan, about 97 percent of Salt Lake City would fall in the same district. But that was not enough for some state senators and representatives.
"As a Salt Lake City representative, what I constantly hear is, 'Keep our city whole.' I don't think this proposal does that," said Sen. Pete Suazo, D-Salt Lake.
Rep. Patrice Arent, D-South Cottonwood, said in a recent meeting Salt Lake County mayors told her they want unified representation.
Arent said Throckmorton's plan would not give a voice to distinct areas in the state, which she said is the role of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Throckmorton drew up his map last week with the help of Republican leaders in the state. His proposal would only split two counties, and in those counties — Salt Lake and Utah — he said the boundaries would not fall along party lines.
Throckmorton's proposal splits Utah into north, west and east districts. The 1st Congressional District would include Davis, Weber and part of Salt Lake County. The 2nd District would include everything else west of I-15, splitting Salt Lake and Utah counties in half. The 3rd District would include everything east of I-15.
There is one concern with Throckmorton's idea: It places the home of 2nd District Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, in the same district as the home of 3rd District Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah. By law, U.S. House members don't have to live in the district they're elected from. They only have to live in the state they're elected from. But from a political view, it would be difficult to run and win an election if you didn't live in the district.
"At least (Throckmorton's plan) is something we can work with," said Waddoups, R-Taylorsville. "I don't think anyone's seen the final map because it hasn't been drawn."
In Price, even GOP leaders asked the committee not to lump eastern Utah into Matheson's 2nd Congressional District. State GOP leaders, both in the Legislature and in the party, seem determined that Matheson's district, now wholly in Salt Lake County, will be pushed into rural Utah.
Republican Duchesne County Commission Larry Ross said: "We are very concerned about being (in the same congressional district) as Salt Lake City. We ask you, 'Don't bring us in as co-partners.' They are strictly urban and we are strictly rural."