Utah legislative leaders release redistricting records
Sunday , November 18, 2012 - 9:04 AM
SALT LAKE CITY— After a year of partisan squabbling, Utah legislative leaders have posted online about 16,000 pages of documents concerning last year’s redistricting process.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said the documents were posted (bit.ly/TVNbCw ) Friday in an effort to save taxpayer money after Democrats sued over the issue in September.
She said leaders thought the public was entitled to the records, but didn’t provide them earlier because of a dispute over how much Democrats should pay for gathering and copying them.
"I would say the taxpayers of Utah won because they no longer have to foot the bill for continued litigation with the Democratic Party," Lockhart told the Deseret News.
Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature have "nothing to hide" in the documents.
"We really do want it out there," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We want to do away with the suspicion that there is something being hidden."
But Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis was skeptical, saying his party will comb the documents for a possible suit over redistricting.
Democrats suspect the emails, texts and other correspondence between lawmakers, the GOP and others may show closed-door "shenanigans," he said.
"The Legislature tried its best through stalling, through charging outrageous amounts of money ... to keep the public from seeing the very documents that were involved in this incredibly important redistricting," Dabakis said.
Utah Democrats sued over the documents in September, accusing Republicans of conspiring behind closed doors to redraw state and congressional districts.
In October 2011, Democrats filed an open-records request seeking all email and correspondence between lawmakers, the Republican Party and others regarding the process of redrawing the district boundaries, which occurs every decade. They were told the extensive research and record retrieval would cost an estimated $5,000.
The minority party sought a fee waiver, but was denied and paid it. Legislative officials say it took 55 employees a combined 506 hours to compile the records.
Democratic officials were given 5,000 pages of records in May 2011 and were told another 11,000 pages were available upon payment of an additional $9,250.