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Capitol Hill protesters boo redistricting plan

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Waving signs such as "Might does not make right," and "Gerrymandering: Utah Legislature's new low," more than 100 protested redistricting plans at the state Capitol Monday night.

The protestors, many of whom are members of the Wasatch Front Democratic Caucus, believe the Legislature's redistricting committee split up Democratic neighborhoods and grouped them with large areas of Republican residents in an effort to ensure more Republican representatives in the Legislature. The redistricting follows results of the 2000 Census and the plans will be presented to the Legislature in a special session beginning Tuesday.

Former Salt Lake mayor and caucus co-founder Ted Wilson, clad in explorer's clothing, walked to the podium with two horses and parodied an adventurer exploring "the land called Bountiful." Wilson's heavily Democratic Avenues neighborhood is proposed to be grouped with conservative southern Davis County.

He compared Bountiful and the Avenues, noting differences in family size, religion and lifestyle, such as the number of fast food restaurants in Bountiful to the neighborhood coffee shops in the Avenues, Davis County's Legacy Parkway to "bumpy, narrow, tree-lined little streets" in the Avenues.

"How do you represent both sides of this mountain?" Wilson said. "It's going to be tough."

Some speakers said there could be backlash by "fair-minded Republicans" if the proposed "Republican monopoly" plans receive approval.

"The moderates are going to be leaving, and they're going to be coming over to the Democratic Party," Salt Lake mayor and caucus co-founder Rocky Anderson said.

The redistricting plans draw out minorities and lower-income people and will make their votes "ineffective," said Robert Gallegos, a community activist speaking at the rally.

Attendees at the rally were highly responsive to comments made by speakers, cheering, jeering and clapping at their comments.

Mike Harman, Salt Lake City, said he attended the rally because the proposed plan will take his neighborhood out of Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson's 2nd Congressional District and place it into the 1st District of Republican Jim Hansen.

"I think (the rally) shows there's unification among the Democrats," he said. "Hopefully, we'll have some success."

Scott Parker, executive director of the Utah Republican Party, was also at the rally "because I love a good political stunt, and that's what this is."

Parker said he disagreed with most of what was said. "The entire Legislature will vote on the maps," Parker said. "Not just Republicans but Democrats will vote on the maps."

E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com