Districting details
Reason for secrecy was always bogus
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The paper trail left behind by those who redrew all of the state's congressional and legislative districts the last time around has always been a public record. The Republican leaders of the Legislature admitted as much late last week when they finally decided to actually make those records public, rather than face an embarrassing and expensive court battle with the Democrats and the state's news organizations.

Thus the leadership's argument that the records should only see the light of day if the Democratic Party would pay all the costs associated with the search is revealed as totally bogus. Only in a state where one party so dominates the landscape would any elected official utter, and expect to get away with, such a transparent stonewall.

Friday, the elections safely over, legislative leaders deposited a 16,000-page document dump onto the people of Utah. They credited a belated realization that journalists also wanted the information for their change of heart.

Senate President Michael Waddoups and House Speaker Becky Lockhart had hewn strictly to the "There's nothing to see here. Move along" argument for months. They dismissed the Democrats' demands for all records and communications from the GOP-controlled process as strictly partisan. They expected all Utahns to believe, and may even have believed themselves, that only a rival party looking for "shenanigans" could possibly care about such a crucial process.

Waddoups dismissed the Democratic Party itself as "verging on irrelevance." There is hard data — voter registration numbers and election results — to back up Waddoups' view. But Utah Democrats' spin toward oblivion is being helped along by the Republicans' bare-faced gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts so that what few blue votes there are are drowned in a sea of red.

In fact, the best argument against the extensive and expensive records request was that, while the details may have been secret, the result was not. The maps the Legislature came up with brazenly ignored almost all the public input the committee received in what had seemed an exemplary process — with a series of public hearings and an exceptionally useful interactive website.

The new congressional district map — a deliberate split of the Democratic areas in Salt Lake City among four different districts, so as to dilute their influence — is proof that true democracy was the last thing on the leaders' minds.

In future, all documentation of this most important deliberation should automatically be placed online. If it isn't, "shenanigans" will always be suspected. And likely.