SALT LAKE CITY – Legislative leaders released 16,000 pages of documents on Friday related to last year’s controversial redistricting process.
The documents were posted online at www.redistrictutah.com.
The release comes after months of arguments and accusations by Democrats and some non-partisan organizations that the redistricting process was conducted unfairly.
Between April and Oct. 2011, a group of 19 lawmakers traveled the state getting public opinion. They approved one map, but it was redrawn, leaving Democrats fuming.
“We are seeing it for the first time today. It has not gone through a public process, unlike other maps we have before us,” said Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, when the redrawn map was released.
Past GRAMA requests for the documents had been rejected, but with the posting of the documents, the redistricting committee cited FOX 13 as one of the reasons for their decision to release them.
“Where the partisan political organizations were unable to convince the committee that they were acting primarily in the public interest and not in their own self-interest, the appeal by a media organization like Fox 13 – with a different fact pattern, unique circumstances and different standing related to their work in the public interest – may have resulted in different outcome,” it said.
The post says that one of their primary reasons for posting the documents online was to avoid legal battles – the Democrats had threatened to sue over the nearly $10,000 in fees they would’ve had to pay to get the documents – that would cost Utah taxpayers thousands of dollars.
“It became more obvious that the public wanted to see those records that had already been gathered,” said Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville. “It also became evident that to fight it, it would cost taxpayers more money that we would collect than we would get getting the copying charges, and collecting charges we had done.”
The documents include thousands of emails, most from citizens to lawmakers, some from public officials.