ONTD Political

Redistricting Wisconsin (or gerrymandering)

7:10 pm - 07/13/2011
GOP redistricting maps make dramatic changes

Madison - Republicans unveiled a plan Friday to redraw the state's 132 legislative seats just before a wave of recall elections this summer - a proposal that would push at least 11 pairs of lawmakers into the same districts.

A quick vote would allow GOP lawmakers to approve the maps and lock down advantages for themselves at the ballot box for the next 10 years by drawing district lines in their favor. Republicans' schedule would allow them to sign off on maps to their liking even if they lose control of the Senate in the coming weeks.

Republicans have been working on the maps for months, but Democrats and the general public saw them for the first time Friday, a week and a half before lawmakers are expected to approve them.

Democrats are in the minority in both houses and will have little to no say in what the maps look like. But a lawsuit has already been filed over redistricting, meaning a federal court could still weigh in on the process.

A legislative hearing on the new maps is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, and the Legislature could act on it as early as July 19 in extraordinary session.

"(Republicans) are now going to convene an extraordinary legislative session to rush a vote on their plan out of fear they will lose their majority when voters render their verdict in the upcoming recall elections," said a statement from Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona).

"Instead of creating any jobs for the people of Wisconsin, the only jobs they're protecting are their own."

But GOP leaders said they were simply doing their jobs.

Once a decade, every state must draw new lines for congressional and legislative districts based on new U.S. census data, which show that Wisconsin gained more than 300,000 residents since 2000. The new lines are needed to ensure the districts are of equal population.

"Republicans have been keeping our promises and getting the job done since day one. We started with jobs bills to improve the economy; we balanced the budget on time and turned a deficit into a surplus; and now we're fulfilling our constitutional requirement to properly reapportion the state's legislative and congressional districts," Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said in a joint statement.

Republican leaders said there were 11 states where some redistricting measures had already been approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor or been passed through an alternate system of redistricting used in those states.

Scott Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse said Republicans would seek to pass separate legislation allowing the legislative and congressional maps to be redrawn before local municipalities finish drawing ward lines. Currently, state law requires the ward lines to be drawn first, which would mean that lawmakers would have to wait until long after the recall elections to pass a redistricting plan.

Welhouse said lawmakers were moving more quickly this year because of new technology, such as computerized mapping. He declined to comment on whether local communities could use that same technology to move more quickly as well.

Some communities have drawn their ward lines, but many have not. Those that have approved them may have to redraw them once the Legislature approves its maps.

Dramatic changes

Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) would see her 8th Senate District change significantly, likely becoming far more Republican. As now, the district would include parts of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties. But it wouldn't include Shorewood, where the recall movement against her was launched last winter, and which has voted Democratic in recent state and national elections. Also gone: sections of the east side of Milwaukee.

What it lost on the east and south, Darling's district would pick up on the west and north, taking in more of Germantown and Menomonee Falls than it does now, along with Lannon and part of the Town of Lisbon.

Now, the 21st Senate District consists of most of Racine County, and the 22nd Senate District consists of most of Kenosha County.

Under the proposal, the 21st District would hold the western, Republican-leaning portions of both counties, while the 22nd District would include the city of Kenosha and much of the City of Racine, which have larger Democratic and minority populations.

With those changes, Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie), who is facing a recall election, would be drawn out of the 22nd District he has long represented. He called the changes "shameful political gerrymandering."

Democrats said two Democrats challenging Republican senators in recall elections - Rep. Fred Clark of Baraboo and former Brown County Executive Nancy Nusbaum - were drawn out of the districts they are seeking. That would mean if they won this summer's recall elections, they could serve briefly but would then have to move or run in a different district in November 2012.

In the Assembly, 11 pairs of sitting lawmakers are drawn into the same districts, and 11 other districts are left without incumbents. In three districts, Republicans would have to run against each other; in two districts, Democrats would have to run against each other; and in six, a Republican would have to run against a Democrat - in districts that Democrats said leaned Republican.

Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, said the governor would examine the bill when it reaches his desk and declined to comment on whether it was appropriate to vote on it before the recall elections.

"It's up to the Legislature right now," Werwie said.

Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac), who is facing a recall election, said he didn't know if voters would have a problem with lawmakers approving new maps just before the recall elections. Asked if he thought the timing was fair, he said, "That's leadership's call."

Republicans currently run all of state government, but run the risk of losing the Senate this summer because of unprecedented recall elections against six Republicans and three Democrats. Republicans have a 19-14 majority, and Democrats would need to net three seats to gain control of the chamber.

Courts have drawn Wisconsin's maps for the past three redistricting cycles, but that's because control of the Legislature was split between the two parties, which were unable to agree on a plan.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act, districts must be drawn in ways that ensure minorities have an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

This month, former Senate Democratic leader Judy Robson of Beloit and 14 other citizens asked for a three-judge panel to develop a redistricting plan if lawmakers do not put a constitutional plan in place in a timely fashion.

GOP legislative leaders have retained Michael Best & Friedrich and the Troupis Law Office to draw the maps. So far they have reported spending $300,000 in taxpayer money for those maps, but lawmakers have not said how much they expect the legal work to cost in total.

At Wednesday's hearings, Senate and Assembly committees will consider a bill that would dictate how challenges to the maps in state court can be conducted. Under the bill, the Supreme Court would have to assign a panel of judges from three circuit courts to hear the challenges.

Those suing would be barred from substituting any of the judges. Appeals of the panel's rulings would be heard directly by the Supreme Court, without going through the appeals court. Those changes would not affect the lawsuit that has already been filed because that case is in federal court.

Those hearings today were a joke. People talked and talked and I'm sure it went in one ear and out the other. There's going to be an executive session on Friday, and then it'll go to the Assembly next week.

The funniest parts were when Zipperer said the Dems would have time to introduce amendments and so on. Yeah, then the Republicans would shoot them down. So obvious.

(no subject) - Anonymous
sesmo 14th-Jul-2011 01:27 am (UTC)
Trying to change the law to advance redistricting it so it happens before the recall election? I didn't realize that was happening in Illinois. Do tell.
serendipity_15 14th-Jul-2011 12:30 am (UTC)
You know in an odd way I'm comforted by how they're making their true intentions so blatantly obvious. So now instead of them trying to feed people some line about how it's "the people's will" or some other BS they're just going "we just really hate you and we will use every tactic, no matter how unethical or borderline illegal (we may even go down the illegal route if we want) to crush you".
peacetrains 14th-Jul-2011 12:33 am (UTC)
Right? I, for one, am glad to see them finally showing their true colors.
roseofjuly 14th-Jul-2011 12:31 am (UTC)
So you put fake Democrats on the ballots in order to delay the democratic process because you know what's coming to you, and then when that doesn't work, you try to redraw the district lines so that you stack the deck in your favor? Real classy. How is this bullshit even allowed?! They're circumventing government by the people, basically.
salienne 14th-Jul-2011 01:38 am (UTC)
They're circumventing government by the people, basically.

They've been doing this the whole time, unfortunately.
origamicage 14th-Jul-2011 02:09 am (UTC)
Gerrymandering has been happening for nearly 200 years in the USA. Well, it's had that exact term for 200 years, at least.
roseofjuly 14th-Jul-2011 03:42 am (UTC)
I know what it is and how long it's been around; I was just shocked at the gall of this particular group of them.
hashire 14th-Jul-2011 05:02 am (UTC)
That's true, but right now we have eight recall elections coming up in the next month, and they're trying to (and going to) push this through before then. I've never really paid attention to redistricting (or local politics before this year, to be honest), but everyone was saying that it's supposed to take a long time, not a week and a half.

Their claim is that the federal lawsuit is forcing them to get it passed quickly, but someone in the hearing pointed out a federal lawsuit isn't going to be decided before the middle of August. I think all three of the Republican senators had left their seats by that point, but it's not like they listen anyway.
honeymane 14th-Jul-2011 01:01 am (UTC)
I wish Obama would just have the lot of them, including the tea party, arrested. This is disgusting and wrong on so many levels.
captain_emily 14th-Jul-2011 01:17 am (UTC)
How is this legal?
origamicage 14th-Jul-2011 02:10 am (UTC)
From wikipedia:

The word gerrymander (originally written Gerry-mander) was used for the first time in the Boston Gazette newspaper on March 26, 1812. The word was created in reaction to a redrawing of Massachusetts state senate election districts under the then governor Elbridge Gerry. In 1812, Governor Gerry signed a bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his Democratic-Republican Party.

Sadly, I don't think it's ever going to stop.
hashire 14th-Jul-2011 04:31 am (UTC)
Because they say it is! They can just change the laws (and they're going to) so it's all okay.
kyra_neko_rei 14th-Jul-2011 04:10 am (UTC)
Can we just run something through the Supreme Court to have either a completely neutral entity or a computer program come up with ALL the legislative boundaries?

This is just getting out of hand, and undermines the right of the people to representative democracy.
hashire 14th-Jul-2011 04:30 am (UTC)
The Supreme Court is as partisan as everything else, so it wouldn't even be neutral there.
kyra_neko_rei 17th-Jul-2011 02:32 am (UTC)
True, but they could find somebody who isn't, if they put their minds to it.
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