Last Day Of Redistricting Marred By Utah GOP Lies

Posted By on October 17, 2011

Salt Lake City, Utah – The final day of the Utah Redistricting special session has been marred by lie after lie from the Republican Legislators. Including a brand new map which they claim has been publicly vetted despite proof to the contrary.

Republicans "Fake-Garber" map

In a closed-door caucus meeting this morning, void of any public view, the Utah Republicans drew a new map which they entitled “Modified Garber,” hoping that the public would accept it as a slight change to the map drawn by Utah County citizen Dave Garber which gained enormous bipartisan support among citizens as well as Democrat Legislators. Unfortunately the monstrosity that was created bears almost no resemblance to the Garber map, but neatly creates 4 districts with 65% Republican voters with custom drawn districts for Carl Wimmer as well as either Mayor Mia Love or Representative Sandstrom to run for Congress.

But the Dog and Pony show was just getting started, as the moment the House was called to order the Republicans began their instant lies about the nature and origin of the “Fake-Garber” map. Representatives Sumsion and Dougall claimed that the map had been publicly vetted and had been “online for weeks,” despite the fact that it had only been uploaded an hour before. They continued by lauding the map as a “bipartisan effort” even though it had no support among Democrat legislators.

It seemed that the day was only a proud one for the Democrats, as one by one they stood up to show the bill for what it truly was. Brian King (D) and David Litvack (D) especially took the GOP to task, with house Minority Leader Litvack courageously noting that the new map was a fraud and “Pulled the wool over the eyes of Utahns.”

The Real Garber Map

The Republicans could only weakly counter, with House Majority Leader Brad Lee (R) calling Litvack the legislative equivalent to a meany-head, followed by the Sutherland Institute’s flunky (Rep LaVar Christensen) claiming that God’s blessings were on the side of the Republicans.

Meanwhile on Twitter, the Republicans faced even further embarrassment as Dave Garber himself released a statement calling the GOP’s Fake-Garber a complete distortion and in no way similar to the map that he drew.

As of 3:50pm, the Republicans are in a closed-door caucus once again. They’re expected to come back with once again a brand new, never before seen by the public map.


UPDATE: Now hearing that the Utah Republicans are coming back once again from closed-door meeting with a brand new map, loosely based on Sen. Okerlund’s ideas.

About The Author

Eric Ethington
Eric Ethington is a journalist, activist, and researcher. His writing, advocacy work, and research have been featured on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, the New York Times, The Guardian, and The Public Eye magazine. Follow him on Twitter @EricEthington.


6 Responses to “Last Day Of Redistricting Marred By Utah GOP Lies”

  1. David Nelson says:

    Utah enjoys the state Open and Public Meetings Act which provides that “[i]t is the intent of the Legislature that the state, its agencies, and its political subdivisions: (a) take their actions openly; and (b) conduct their deliberations openly.” But, Utah Code Section 52-4-103(5)(a) provides that “‘[m]eeting’ means the convening of a public body” and Section 52-4-103(8)(b) provides further that “‘[p]ublic body’ does not include a: (i) political party, political group, or political caucus.”

    So, “closed-door caucus meetings” don’t violate the state law. In fact, such meetings are explicitly protected by that very law.

    In case we are moved to look to the Congress for inspiration on the matter, we should find just two of the many examples of congressional Democrats (in the Senate and the House of Representatives) meeting in closed-door caucuses to decide business before acting publicly on those decisions:

    2010: “In a closed-door caucus meeting on Thursday morning, House Democrats voted…,” The New York Times.

    1894: “The Democrats of the senate decided to retire behind closed doors for the purpose of settling their differences…,” Free Press (Easton, Penn.).

    So, both state law and federal practice protects “closed-door caucus meetings.”

    • Eric Ethington (Author) Eric Ethington (Author) says:

      Don’t recall writing that it was ‘illegal’ David. I said that it’s unethical. When the fate of Utah for the next 10 years is in the balance, it’s despicable that the Republicans shut the public out of the process.. then snuck through a brand new map with less than an hour of debate.

  2. David Nelson says:

    With more than 25 public hearings throughout the state (in addition to the interactive state redistricting web site, regular meetings at the Utah Capitol and the Utah Legislature special session), it is difficult to believe that “Republicans shut the public out of the process.” Even if they “snuck through a brand new map with less than an hour of debate[,]” there is no state law or legislative rule which provides a delay between the introduction and adoption of legislation.

    Utah Code Section 52-4-103(8)(b) protects state legislators specifically to attend closed-door caucus meetings. Neither the Utah Public Officers’ and Employees’ Ethics Act (Utah Code Section 67-16-1, et seq.) nor the Legislative Ethics and Adjudication of Ethics Complaints Rule (Utah Legislative Rules Section JR6-1-101, et seq.) contradict Section 52-4-103(8)(b).

    But, if you believe that state legislators who attend meetings which are specifically protected by state law are unethical, you may file a complaint with the chair of the Utah Independent Legislative Ethics Commission under Utah Legislative Rules Section JR6-3-101(1)(a)(iii).

    I agree that state Democrats welcome the public to their legislative caucus meetings, but, closed-door legislative meetings of Democrats exist, too. I attended them. If they hadn’t, I would hope that state Democrats would show Democrats in the U.S. Senate how their attendance at a “weekly closed-door caucus on Wednesday” to regroup on the president’s failed $447 billion jobs bill is “unethical.” But, they did, I can’t and they won’t.

    • Eric Ethington (Author) Eric Ethington (Author) says:

      Wow.. David once again you pass right over the point without giving it a second thought. Is what the Republican’s did legal? Yes. Was it ethical? No.

      There are, of course, reasons to have closed door meetings, discussing pending litigation for example. But to shut the public out for hours on end while they decide the fate of the state? Not even close to a good reason.

      And yes, the legislature spent $1M and 6 months holding public hearings and accepting citizen maps. I wish that I could say that was indicative of an open process, but any rational person will point out that it was nothing other than a dog and pony show to give the appearance of an open process. In the end, 65% of the state demanded that communities of interest be kept whole and that urban districts be kept separate from rural districts.. in other words: the exact opposite of what the Republicans chose to do.

      Every analyst who has looked at the final map has concluded that the only possible reasoning behind it was to favor Republican incumbents and hopefuls, rather than what was fair for ALL Utahns.

      No one is claiming either that a Democrat Majority would do any better, but the Democrats as well as the people of Utah demanded an open, independent and bipartisan commission be created to handle the redistricting process. Unfortunately the Republicans insisted on handling it themselves so they could once again, as they did 10 years ago, create districts that disenfranchised Utah voters. It is impossible for partisan politicians to do anything other than serve their own interests rather than the people’s.

  3. David Nelson says:

    Eric, it was you who didn’t understand my statements and my reasons for them.

    You said that Republican Utah legislators lied, met in closed-door caucus meetings and “snuck through a brand new map.” I showed that their actions didn’t violate state laws, and you agreed with me.

    Then, you said that their actions were “unethical.” I showed that their actions didn’t violate state laws, and you agreed with me.

    Then, you said that their actions “shut the public out of the process.” I showed that they invited more public input in their work this year than in their work of previous decades, and you agreed with me.

    Now, you’re left with defending the “fate of the state” and the “open, independent and bipartisan” work that redistricting demands. Let’s leave the fate of humanity to superheroes, okay? As I showed last week, the state’s congressional redistricting plan won’t likely receive court scrutiny because the plan meets the demographic and geographic conditions mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court. So, it’s hardly harmful to Utahns or their “fate.”

    I remain supportive of an independent and nonpartisan redistricting commission, but that would violate the Utah Constitution that requires “the Legislature shall divide the state into congressional, legislative, and other districts” (Art. 9, Sec. 1) without a constitutional amendment.

    Unfortunately, the movement for such a commission received a black eye after it was reported in September that paid Utah Democratic Party worker Todd Taylor drafted the redistricting plan anonymously for commission proponent Fair Boundaries. Even Utah Democratic Chairman Jim Dabakis supported Taylor drafting the map and said “I’m not ashamed of it.”

    What about THAT lie, Eric? Was it as egregious as the Republicans’ lies?

    It seems that your whole argument can be distilled — with the facts, but without the hyperbole — to this: You’re angry because both Republicans and Democrats lied, neither did anything illegal, Utah now has its redistricting plans, and the fate of the planet is okay.

    And some say you’re hysterical, Eric. Silly people!

    In all seriousness, Eric, you’re a great leader of public opinion. But, if you want to affect government, you can’t ignore facts. Making hyperbolic and unsubstantiated claims in public policy will quickly tar you as unreliable and hysterical. Nobody in government — state or otherwise — will trust you.

    Good luck to you.

    • Eric Ethington (Author) Eric Ethington (Author) says:

      David I’ve got to say I admire your ability to skim right over the point in any argument to make it sound as if you’re “winning” something. I guess the bottom line is that you see no problem or error when legislators claim to be listening to the public, while at the same time absorbing none of it and openly flaunting their thrill at moving in the opposite direction. And it appears you’re just fine that over a third of the state’s votes are now completely pointless. But hey, to each his own I suppose!

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