In the first day of a trial on the secretly drawn redistricting ram-through in Wisconsin, a 3 judge panel has given Wisconsin Legislative leaders until 5:30 PM Central Time to reconsider redrawing the districts by taking into account the court challenges by Democrats and Latinos.
At the opening of Tuesday's trial, presiding Judge J.P. Stadtmueller said drawing district lines is the purview of the Legislature, and it would be best for them to put those lines into law. However, he said, the plaintiffs have raised significant issues - particularly on the treatment of Latino areas and in the way it moved hundreds of thousands of people into new districts.The 3 judge panel has recently ordered the release of all documents related to the drawing of those maps, leading to the revelations that they were drawn in secret by the GOP in the law offices of Michael Best & Friedrich and involved GOP lawmakers signing oaths of secrecy. The GOP was forced to pay over $17,000 to plaintiffs lawyers in the redistricting case for their frivolous motions attempting to keep the remaining 84 documents secret.
As you well know, the GOP has majorities in the State Senate and State Assembly as well as the Governors office. This trifecta of power has given them the power to ram through as series of extremist measures that have quickly been enacted into law. Input from Democrats and citizens have been soundly rejected and many of these new laws are facing court challenges, mainly due to the Republicans insistence on fast tracking bills for rapid passage by ignoring existing laws about governance such as our Open Meeting Law.
Reedistricting is always messy, no matter where it happens. But a single political party creating new legislative districts without any input, creating them in private offices away from the halls of government, and using massive secrecy and non-disclosure oaths isn't democracy. It's blatant partisanship and tyranny, a word I don't use often.
They have created a massive divide in my state, refused to listen to the citizens, and understand that they are in electoral peril. With that knowledge, the GOP attempted to ensure that they would continue unrivalled dominence in our Legislature for the next 10 years. And with that dominence, they would redistrict again every 10 years with the same guarentee of political dominence.
The 3 Judge Panel is giving them another change to redistrict with input. Otherwise, testimony will start tomorrow in this case.
I'll update this as additional information becomes available.
PS: This is primary election day in Wisconsin (local elections, sorry, no national candidates yet) and the first electionthat our (GOP rammed through) new voter suppression law is in effect. We have to present our IDs and sign the new shiny voter book in order to get a ballot. People who have voted in elections for decades who don't have their state-approved ID will be turned away.
Update: Another brief article here.
Update: Adjusted title to indicate that the deadline was given by the Court.
Update #3: The original Journal Sentinel article has been updated and more fleshed out from its original few paragraphs.
The order, coming just after the trial began Tuesday, sent the 16 attorneys in the courtroom scrambling to consult with their clients and make overtures to lawmakers and GOP Gov. Scott Walker.
The idea of redrawing the maps comes in the waning days of the legislative session, as Republican leaders try to pass a major overhaul of mining laws before heading into likely recall elections this summer of Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four GOP senators. It was unclear if Republican leaders were open to the idea of changing the maps, and the topic was expected to dominate Tuesday's caucus meetings behind closed doors.
Stadtmueller (one of the judges on the panel) said the court needs to examine the large number of voters who were moved into new congressional districts even though more modest changes could have been made to achieve districts of equal population. In some cases, Republican lawmakers needed to add a relatively small number of voters to a district. Instead of doing that, they moved large numbers out of the district and a new batch of voters into it. That resulted in significant reshaping of the congressional districts in northern and western Wisconsin.
Information in italics is mine added for clarification.
Among those suing the state over the maps is Judy Robson, a Democrat and former Senate majority leader. She said she did not expect Republican lawmakers to take up the maps in the coming weeks.The updated article is well worth a read.
"They would have to admit they were wrong," she said. "And given their arrogance, they will never admit they're wrong."
Justin Levitt, a law professor who tracks redistricting closely, said the ruling was highly unusual but was also a reminder that courts defer to lawmakers for the most part on where lines are drawn.
Update 4: A fresh article discusses the Redistricting Lawsuit.
Republican state lawmakers head into a trial this week over new election maps with one major asset and a big liability.
On their side: The maps at issue were approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker, giving them a presumption of legality. Against them: In recent weeks they have repeatedly angered the three judges hearing the case.
The case hinges on two major claims:
That Latinos are deprived of their full voting strength because of where the lines fall on Milwaukee's south side.
That thousands of people unnecessarily have to wait six years - instead of four - between elections for the state Senate because of the way voters were moved from one district to another.
In unanimous rulings, the judges on the panel have expressed exasperation at the Republican lawmakers for trying to keep their redistricting process secret and repeatedly attempting to withhold documents. In January, they ordered the Republicans' attorneys to pay about $17,500 for filing frivolous motions to keep material confidential. Then, last week, they again scolded the GOP lawmakers for trying to keep additional records secret in an order that said they had engaged in an "all but shameful" manner in trying to keep information from the public.Update 5: The deadline has now passed. No new information yet, but I'll watching.
HERE'S THE FINAL DECISION: The GOP has weaselled outclaiming they have no power to reconsider the map.
Republican lawmakers said they believe they have no power to make changes to election maps they approved last summer, inserting new questions into a fast-changing litigation over those maps.
...an attorney for the state told the panel top Republicans were willing to consider making changes but believed a 1954 opinion by the state Supreme Court prevented them from doing so.
Tuesday's developments left numerous questions in place - including when the trial may continue. The presiding judge told the attorneys to be able to return to court with 45 minutes notice on Wednesday, but made clear the panel may rule only on ancillary issues rather than taking up the heart of the case.
It's anyones guess what happens from here.
Frankly, the judges may be forced to redraw the map and weather the expected whining and screetching outrage from Republicans about "judicial overreach" and "librul judges". The plain facts are that the GOP, after a year of unchallenged (except in the courts) legislation and unimaginable power over the state, are accustomed to getting whatever they want whenever they want it. The don't want to lower themselves to discuss or compromise. That attitude shows in their decision.
Update 6: From the ever expanding Journal Sentinal coverage a lot of it calling BS on the GOPs lame excuse for not going to the table with plaintiffs to redo the districts:
The court could also address the issue Wednesday of whether the Legislature has the ability to redraw the district lines absent a court order. Kelly, one of the attorneys for the state, argued lawmakers can pass approve maps just once a decade, unless a court tells them to draw new lines.
But Doug Poland, an attorney for the group of Democrats, said lawmakers could draw new maps multiple times during their first two-year session after each census, even if a court had not ordered it to do so.
He noted those who drew the maps wrote in emails last year believed they could change the maps after approving them, at one point writing talking points that said they could revise them after last year's state Senate recall elections if they wanted.