Dems say Utah GOP lacks redistricting transparency
Democrats scolded Republicans on Wednesday for what they say is a lack of transparency in redistricting work, just as the GOP posted publicly two maps that House Republicans will consider Monday as they try to end a standoff with the Senate over new congressional boundaries.
Both moves come after House GOP leaders said they are discarding a map they drew and debated behind closed doors, and instead will see if their members will adopt one that the Senate already passed and debated publicly.
The Utah Democratic Party said it filed an open-records request with the Legislature on Wednesday seeking documents on what it called "the closed-door, secret conversations" that led last week to a stalemate between the House and Senate on congressional maps and prompted a two-week recess to seek a compromise.
"Someone must smash a battering ram through the closed doors," said Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis. "The Republican Party bosses are taking a two-by-four to the democratic process, and they must repent."
Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, the House chairman of the joint Redistricting Committee, argued at a Tuesday forum that the process this year has been more transparent than ever, including a series of public hearings around the state and the purchase of a system that allows people to draw their own maps and share them online.
Sumsion also posted Wednesday on the committee's website Â redistrictutah.com Â two maps he said House Republicans may consider when they reconvene Monday to try to resolve the impasse with the Senate.
That deadlock occurred when many House members balked at a map passed by the committee and Senate. Instead, they wanted the map to favor the GOP more, help rural candidates more or move more Republicans from Davis County into the district of Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, to make it tougher on him.
House Republicans then drew and debated an alternative behind closed doors that would be tougher on the six-term congressman.
The Senate not only disliked the map, it complained the House map had never been vetted publicly and worried it could re-create the furor that occurred earlier this year when lawmakers quickly passed changes to open-records laws that had little chance for public input.
Sumsion said House members of his committee decided to discard the controversial House alternative and not bring it up for possible action in his panel. Instead, they will present to the House GOP caucus Monday the Senate map with a few modifications.
That modified map, called "Sumsion 15" on the website, makes only small changes, he said, including keeping Holladay whole instead of splitting it three ways. That suburb would be taken entirely out of Matheson's district and shifted into the district of Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.
If House Republicans do not go for the Senate map, Sumsion also posted a middle-ground maps, titled "Sumsion 16."
That would put part of Juab County and all of Sanpete and Emery counties into a new 4th District along with western Salt Lake and Utah counties. That would make the 4th District more rural, which Sumsion has said Gov. Gary Herbert would like. But it would keep the general outline of Matheson's district as proposed by the Senate more intact than the original House proposal.
The Senate-passed map cuts Salt Lake County into three slices. It combines two with vast rural areas. The other slice, the new 4th District, combines western Salt Lake and Utah counties. A final district in that map covers northern Utah.
Republicans say such a "pizza slice" plan would ensure that all Utah members of Congress would represent both urban and rural issues. Democrats say it is a ploy to dilute Democratic votes in Salt Lake County and improve GOP odds in all districts.
See the maps
O To view the latest proposals on congressional boundaries, go to redistrictutah.com.