Utah legislative leaders put redistricting documents online
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — After more than a year of partisan squabbling, legislative leaders Friday placed thousands of documents related to Utah's controversial redistricting process online.
Democrats had accused Republicans who control the Legislature of conspiring behind closed doors last year to redraw the state's congressional and legislative districts boundaries. Republicans claimed Democrats wanted to use the documents for a lawsuit challenging how lawmakers handled redistricting.
Both parties filed open-records requests with the Legislature, and the Democrats ended up filing a lawsuit in September.
And even as the issue now appears resolved with more than 16,000 pages of documents going online, the partisan jabs continue.
"I would say the taxpayers of Utah won because they no longer have to foot the bill for continued litigation with the Democratic Party," House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said.
Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said his party's highest priority all along was getting the documents to the public.
"It is unfortunate that it took over a year and $5,000, but in the end, justice has prevailed," Dabakis said. "Even more importantly, the Democrats have established a precedent that our government is open and the Republicans cannot charge exorbitant fees to keep the public out."
In making their requests under the Government Records Access and Management Act, both parties sought a fee waiver, which was denied in each case. The GOP paid the processing costs up front, received documents and made them public.
The Democrats, though, cast a wider net, seeking all emails, texts and other correspondence between lawmakers, the GOP and others regarding the redistricting process. They were told the extensive research and record retrieval would cost about $5,000.
Democratic party officials received 5,000 pages of records in May and were told another 11,000 pages were available for an additional $9,250. The party balked at the second payment. The GOP offered to pay the balance, but Democrats said no one should have to pay for the documents.
Legislative officials say it took 55 employees a combined 506 hours to compile the records.
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