Court orders Republican legislators to hand over redistricting documentsWisconsin News
Judges Diane Wood, J.P. Stadtmueller and Robert Dow scolded the Republicans for a “shameful attempt to hide the redistricting process from public scrutiny.”
A federal court panel on Thursday, Feb. 16, ordered Republican state legislators to hand over 84 documents to the plaintiffs who are trying to strike down the GOP’s redistricting plan.
Judges Diane Wood, J.P. Stadtmueller and Robert Dow scolded the Republicans for a “shameful attempt to hide the redistricting process from public scrutiny.” The judges accused the lawmakers of trying to hide political strategy, while claiming an attorney-client privilege.
The documents in question are primarily e-mails between legislative staffers and the attorneys who helped Republicans draft their new Senate and Assembly districts. The judges said the messages primarily dealt with the support by certain Hispanic groups for redistricting, as well as floor debates about a pending bill.
The release order and the judges’ comments came five days before a trial is scheduled to begin in federal court in Milwaukee on the new legislative districts. The plaintiffs are Democrats and a Hispanic group who claim that the maps illegally under-represent Hispanics in the Legislature and try to assure that Republicans keep their power at the Capitol for as much of the next decade as possible.
Republicans say the maps are only designed to reflect population changes reflected in the 2010 Census.
Senate majority leader responds
The Wisconsin Senate’s majority leader disagreed with federal court’s characterization of Republican actions. Scott Fitzgerald said his party was not overly secretive, as the court had mentioned several times in the past few weeks.
Fitzgerald said lawmakers normally keep all proposed legislation under wraps until it’s formally introduced. Previously released documents revealed that nearly all Republicans signed confidentiality agreements to keep quiet about the way the GOP was drawing up the new legislative and congressional districts.
The documents showed that Republican finance chair Robin Vos was advised to tell his Republican colleagues to ignore public comments about the new maps.
Thursday’s release included a statement from an unidentified Republican who was opposed to the secret process used in drafting the new districts. The statement said one political party should not draw up the new boundaries, and that an independent commission should do it.
Many of the new e-mails discussed the drawing of Hispanic districts.
A Hispanic group has filed suit over the redistricting, saying it under-represents them in the Legislature. A group of Democrats is also trying to strike down the new maps, and a federal court trial in their lawsuit is scheduled to begin on Tuesday in Milwaukee.