Which counties will gain and lose seats in the Utah legislature?

Utah County and Davis County (combined) need to gain three districts, but Salt Lake County needs to lose three.

Utah’s House of Representatives has 75 districts. Although most people seem to be talking about how the legislature will draw Utah’s four U.S. House districts, these 75 legislative districts matter just as much. So let’s take a look.1

With 2,763,885 people living in Utah according to the 2010 Census, each district’s ideal population is 36,852. After the 2001 redistricting, each district’s population was roughly equal. However, growth over the past 10 years has been extremely uneven. The most populous district in the 2010 Census, District 56, has grown to 90,503 residents over the past 10 years. The second most populous is District 52, with 61,341 people. Together, these two districts have enough people to fill more than four districts.

The table below shows the 8 most populous Utah House districts in descending order. Incumbents representing one of these districts are likely to see their district split in some fashion.

District (incumbent, party, county)
2010 population Ideal population Difference
56 (Sumsion, R, Utah) 90,503 36,852 +53,651
52 (Wimmer, R, Salt Lake) 61,341 36,852 +24,489
50 (Newbold, R, Salt Lake) 54,430 36,852 +17,578
42 (Bird, R, Salt Lake) 51,909 36,852 +15,057
71 (Last, R, Washington) 51,723 36,852 +14,871
13 (Ray, R, Davis) 50,040 36,852 +13,188
27 (Dougall, R, Utah) 49,237 36,852 +12,385
65 (Gibson, R, Utah) 49,224 36,852 +12,372

By contrast, the table below shows the 8 least populated Utah House districts in ascending order. Some of these incumbents will see their district merged with neighboring districts.

District (incumbent, party, county)
2010 population Ideal population Difference
49 (D. Brown, R, Salt Lake) 27,228 36,852 -9,624
4 (Butterfield, R, Cache/Rich) 28,046 36,852 -8,806
48 (Christensen, R, Salt Lake) 28,348 36,852 -8,504
46 (Poulson, D, Salt Lake) 28,377 36,852 -8,475
63 (Sanpei, R, Utah) 28,493 36,852 -8,359
28 (King, D, Salt Lake) 29,137 36,852 -7,715
45 (Eliason, R, Salt Lake) 29,393 36,852 -7,459
60 (Daw, R, Utah) 29,398 36,852 -7,454

The table below presents another way to think about these changes in local population. For Utah’s 7 most populous counties, I have listed how many Utah House districts presently lie (roughly) within that county’s boundaries. I have also divided the county’s 2010 population by 36,852 to see how many districts will need to lie within each county’s boundaries following the 2011 redistricting.

County Current districts Needed districts
Salt Lake 31 27.9
Utah 12.5 14.0
Davis 7 8.3
Weber 7 6.3
Washington 3 3.7
Cache 3 3.1
Tooele 1.5 1.6
Rest of state 10 10.1

Although Salt Lake County gained 131,268 residents between 2000 and 2010–more than any other county except Utah County–this growth rate was slower (as a percent) than in 16 of Utah’s 29 counties. As a result, Utah County and Davis County (combined) need to gain three districts, but Salt Lake County needs to lose three.

In a couple days, we’ll take a look at how these different growth rates around the state may affect the legislature’s partisan balance. In particular, we’ll look at how many Republican seats need to be split (or merged), and also at how many Democratic seats need to be split (or merged).

This is part of a series of posts about redistricting in Utah. For an overview, read the introductory post. My talented research assistant, Robert Richards, contributed heavily to this series.

Possibly related posts:

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an associate professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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4 Responses to Which counties will gain and lose seats in the Utah legislature?

  1. Brendan says:

    Can you share the table you used to create this?

  2. Peggy says:

    Can you design a map that gives Orem City the strongest voice they can have
    in the legislature?
    Orem is the 5th largest city in the state and was the 5th largest city in the state
    prior to the new census numbers, however they don’t have their own senator.
    John Valentine lives in Orem, but his seat extends to Lindon, Pleasant Grove,
    American Fork, Lehi and Cedar Hills. Margaret Dayton’s house is barely in Orem,
    and she has some of Provo in her seat.

    Would Orem be better off with one senator exclusively in Orem, or the way it is now?
    Orem also has one of the smallest House seats. what is the best possible fix for the residents of Orem with the new census numbers?

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