Mon August 6, 2012
Lawmakers Postpone Decision on Redistricting Records: Documents Remain Hidden in Boxes
Two bins of documents related to Utah’s controversial redistricting process remain hidden from the public. That’s mainly because Utah’s Democratic Party is refusing to pay thousands of dollars to let them go. The legislature’s Records Committee put off a decision Monday on whether to waive the fee for the records request. The committee decided it needs more information to determine whether the request primarily serves the public or the Democratic party.
The Democratic party has already paid five thousand dollars for the records related to the legislative redistricting process. The question is whether they’ll have to pay nine thousand more. That’s what the records office determined that the party owed after the request was completed. Joseph Hatch is an attorney for the Utah Democratic Party. He did his best to convince the committee that the party’s request is primarily for the good of the public.
“It is absolutely imperative that the public see these documents,” said Hatch, “We really don’t care how they see them, but that they should be made available without a fee. The public has already paid for their accumulation. Two boxes are sitting over their gathering dust. It’s been done. Simply release it.”
But Hatch was not able to call witnesses from the press and from academia because he said he had only received official notice of the hearing last week. Three out of four legislative leaders voted to resume the hearing at a later date, so Hatch could assemble the witnesses. Republican Senate President Michael Waddoups indicated that he may be swayed by the Democrats’ arguments.
“I would say my mind is not made up. I would probably be leaning towards the possibility that there is a public interest that needs to be served. We need to hear that testimony. I don’t know whether that was primarily the purpose,” said Waddoups.
If the committee determines the records will primarily serve the public interest, rather than the narrow interests of the Democratic Party, then they may waive the rest of the fee.