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Voting groups sue, say redistricting wrongly diluted voices

This story was originally published in the Associated Press. 

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two voting-rights groups sued the state of Utah Thursday seeking to block new redistricting maps they say unfairly solidify one-party GOP control and ignore a voter-approved independent commission.

The League of Women Voters and Mormon Women for Ethical Government say the Republican-controlled Legislature swept aside the commission’s work and wrongly carved up Democratic-leaning Salt Lake County.

“Unfair maps and gerrymandering dilute the voices of communities and consequently hurt voters of all parties,” said Catherine Weller, President of League of Women Voters of Utah, in a statement. “Transparency is critical to the election process; we call on the court to block these unfair maps and let the voters of Utah choose who best represents them.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, declined to comment directly on the lawsuit, but said he supports the maps he signed. Asked during his monthly news conference on PBS Utah, he said he clarified that he believes the maps were not “illegal gerrymandering.”

Legislative leaders also stood behind the maps. Republican lawmakers have argued their district lines better reflect the overall makeup of the state by including both rural and urban areas.

The redistricting determines where voters cast their ballots for the next decade, and the maps approved by the Legislature will likely make the state’s lone swing district more reliably Republican.

The case filed in state court was also backed by Better Boundaries, the group that sponsored the ballot initiative that created the commission. The commission members worked or three years to draw nonpartisan maps for congressional districts as well as state Legislature and school board.

But lawmakers were under no obligation to use one of the maps they drafted and GOP lawmakers drew their own maps instead, which were released shortly before they were quickly approved by the Legislature.