SALT LAKE CITY — With a final decision on redistricting less than two weeks away, lawmakers have learned a state Democratic Party official drew legislative and congressional maps that were presented as non-partisan.
"We got what we could get. I didn't see Republicans offering to do it for us," said Glenn Wright, a board member of Fair Boundaries, the group behind the failed ballot initiative to create an independent redistricting process.
Wright said he deliberately did not disclose that Todd Taylor, the Democrats' longtime executive director and now a senior adviser, drew the maps with party software, using the group's guidelines.
"Certainly, the fact that the Democratic Party was drawing it for us was going to cause some controversy," Wright said. "I wasn't volunteering any information that I didn't need to volunteer."
But he said he would have answered truthfully had anyone asked him about the maps made public earlier this month and submitted to the Legislature's Redistricting Committee.
Taylor, who extended the offer to the group, said if lawmakers cared who drew the maps, "Why didn't they ask? It wasn't a secret."
He said the maps weren't drawn to favor Democrats but to show that the group's principles, including not dividing communities of interest, could work.
The acknowledgement of the Democratic Party's involvement, first made in the online publication Utah Policy, attracted plenty of attention on Capitol Hill during Wednesday's interim meetings.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, announced the source of the maps during the GOP's noontime caucus.
"When they say they're fair, balanced, whatever," Lockhart said, throwing up her hands.
House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden, called it "unconscionable" that the group let lawmakers believe the maps were from concerned citizens rather than political partisans.
"I wouldn't trust the Fair Boundaries people as far as I could throw them now," Dee said.
Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said it was "almost hypocritical for them to say they want (the process) to be fair and unbiased" and then not disclose the source of the maps.
Still, the Redistricting Committee did take some suggestions from the state House and Senate maps submitted by the group, noting they came closer to putting an equal number of residents in each district.
"A good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from," Waddoups, a member of the committee, said.
Wright said he plans to present the group's proposal for dividing the state's now-four congressional districts to the committee on Thursday, and explain that "Todd drew the map for us under our guidance."
But the group's map was not among the proposals for new congressional districts highlighted in the majority caucuses. Senate Republicans narrowed their choices to three, including two drawn by Waddoups.
Gov. Gary Herbert has called lawmakers into special session beginning Oct. 3 to approve new congressional, legislative and state school board districts based on the 2010 Census results.9 comments on this story
Both Waddoups and Dee said whatever maps are ultimately approved will have been available to the public as part of the committee process, not drawn in secret.
"As majority leader — who would probably know — you have seen the map," Dee said. "There are no ulterior maps out there."
The committee held public hearings throughout the state over the summer and has allowed members of the public to submit their own proposals, using mapping software available on the state's redistricting website.