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Never mind what is in the interest of the Democratic Party — something that is very easy to say in Utah. Records of communications that led to the Legislature's creation of the state's new congressional districts should be public. And the Democrats shouldn't have to pay for them.

Democratic Party officials were explaining to members of the Legislative Records Committee Monday that the sticker shock they feel over records they sought was not fair. After being told by legislative record-keepers that the information they wanted would cost some $5,000 for staff time and copying fees, the party was hit by a revised bill of $14,250.

It turned out, officials said, that finding all the documents relating to off-the-record communications about last year's reapportionment debate took more work, and more pieces of paper, than previously thought. Which is all the more reason why all Utahns, and not just the Democratic Party, should be interested in what those files might reveal.

If there was that much back-channel chat about how to draw the state's congressional districts, that only supports the already widespread suspicion that the Legislature's extensive and expensive series of hearings and an interactive website for drawing districts were all a big diversion.

The logical way to apportion Utah's congressional districts was the approach known as the doughnut hole — three districts covering the heavily populated counties of the Wasatch Front, surrounded by a mostly rural district covering the rest of the state. It would keep communities of interest together and give the greatest influence to the greatest concentrations of population, key to representative democracy.

But the Republicans who control the Legislature always preferred an alternative known as the pizza slices, wedges of Utah that carved up Salt Lake County. Cover story: Every Utah member of Congress should be beholden to both urban and rural interests. Better explanation: Districts were drawn to make the slim influence of Democratic voters in the state even slimmer. In the end, that's exactly what happened.

Rather than quibble about how much the Democrats owe, the Legislature should heed the part of state law that allows fees to be waived when release of information is in the public interest. This information clearly is. So much so that it should never have been squirreled away in a place where state office workers had to go on such an expensive hunt.

It should all be public.