Just a bit of background information first.

Small wonder Wisconsin Republican lawmakers and their law firm tried so hard to withhold documents in their secret, GOP only, rammed through gerrymandering in Wisconsin in 2011.   They were so determined that NO information on how they redistricted that they defied court orders from a 3 judge panel that later issued a record fine of $17,500 against Republican lawmakers and their Republican law firm Michael Best & Friedrich.

After Republicans finally coughed up the documents the court demanded, the case was, surprisingly, decided in favor of the Republicans who were allowed to keep their evil deeds with the exception of 1 district line where they tried to divide Hispanic voters between 2 legislative districts to dilute their voting impact.

After that ruling, however, the case remained open as the plaintiffs insisted that all of the documents had not been released.   And since the courts decision, 55 additional redistricting documents have been "found" leading the plaintiffs to ask the court for access to the computers that Republicans and their law firm used for redistricting.  

Of course, Republican leaders fought that order even saying they couldn't "find" the computers.  They continued to insist that ALL documents had been released, however, the court persisted and issued a strongly worded order that the computers to be provided to the plaintiffs for their review.

That brings us to todays breaking news:

Documents were deleted from state redistricting computers last year even after a lawyer for the Legislature told lawmakers' aides to preserve all records on the computers, according to documents filed Wednesday in federal court.

Nine hard drives were recently given to groups suing the state because of questions about whether legislators and their attorneys had turned over all the documents they had been ordered to provide. One of the nine hard drives was unreadable and the outside of it was dented and scratched, which suggested its metal housing had been removed, according to affidavits in the case.

In addition, some of the hard drives had a program installed on them to remove electronic data and hide that files had been deleted, according to the filing. So far, however, a computer expert has not been able to determine if the program was actually used.

OMG!  This is a BFD.

The BIG question is whether or not this will be enough to reopen the case against the new district maps that enabled Republicans to win vast majorities in the State Legisature and Congressional delegation despite 200,000 more votes for Democrats in those elections.

Forensic specialists aren't sure how much they can recover, if anything, particularly on the damaged hard drive, but the fact that so much was withheld, deleted, or destroyed says a lot about the way in which Republicans gerrymandered our state.

In the two weeks the plaintiffs have had hard drives, forensic examiner Mark Lanterman has determined documents were deleted in June, July and November of 2012, but has not yet attempted to recover those documents. He also found some of them contained "wiping" software meant to delete files so that they cannot be recovered or free up disc space.

The internal and external hard drives come from the three main computers legislative aides, lawyers and consultants used to draw the maps. One of the nine hard drives had a stripped screw, denting and scratching that suggested the external housing had been removed from the disc, Lanterman reported. That disc is now unreadable.

Lanterman did not tell the court how many documents had been deleted from the hard drives, but a lawyer for the plaintiffs called the number "substantial."

(bolding is mine)

Because of the difficulties that the deletion program and damage have caused, plaintiffs have asked for 8 weeks for their forensic specialists to review the hard drives.  Republicans are 'splainin' the deletions by saying that after the redistricting was done, they felt entitled to delete the documents.  Bwahahahaha!

So, bottom line, Republicans gerrymander secretly off-site to avoid those pesky transparency laws, ram the redistricting bill through with their majorities, destroy the evidence, lie to the courts about it, get caught, lie some more, get caught again, and just keep on lying.

It's the Republican Way.  If you can't win, cheat.  If you get caught in a lie, tell a few more lies.  And make sure you've got lots of lawyers.

Thank you, Voces de la Frontera for keeping up the fight on redistricting.

I'm going to be watching this carefully.  This could be a serious game changer in redistricting in Wisconsin.



Republicans, we know, are petty and vindictive, particularly when they hold all the levers of power.  Today Scott Walker signed into law a measure that strips our (Democratic) Secretary of State of most of his power and important authority including his duty to inform the public of laws before they take effect (Republicans insist that publishing new laws in state media isn't necessary any more because ... Google and stuff).  

In another measure (hold onto your lunch for this one):

Walker Wednesday also signed a bill to reduce certain routine state audits to allow auditors to focus on problem areas. Lawmakers have been seeking more audits of programs such as one in which a private foster care agency allegedly defrauded taxpayers of millions of dollars.
That's right, no audits for agencies now fully controlled by Walker appointees which have had problem after problem after problem like the workforce development agency that Walker created and was found, after an audit, to have lost track of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars given to business as "loans".   Problems solved.  No more audits.

Life in FitWalkerStan.  Sigh.

Originally posted to Puddytat on Wed Mar 13, 2013 at 12:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive, American Legislative Transparency Project, and Friends of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.

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