Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

For the 3rd Time, Federal Judges Rule that WI Legislature Cannot Keep Redistricting Info from Dems

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For the third time since December 8, 2011, a three-judge panel comprised of federal judges has ruled that the Republican-dominated Wisconsin Legislature cannot keep information regarding the redistricting process away from the Democrats who filed suit over it.  The judges were obviously exasperated, saying that the GOP lawmakers are actually trying to hide the information from the public regarding the redistricting process and basically said that they will not stand for it.

Please see this link from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s January 3, 2012, edition for further details:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/federal-judges-say-gop-lawmakers-trying-to-hide-redistricting-details-from-public-td3lru1-136626883.html?mid=56

As for a relevant quote, how’s this for you?

“Quite frankly, the Legislature and the actions of its counsel give every appearance of flailing wildly in a desperate attempt to hide from both the court and the public the true nature of exactly what transpired in the redistricting process,” the ruling reads.

You don’t read language like this from federal judges every day, folks.

So here’s the deal.  On December 8, 2011, and again on December 20, 2011, the three federal judges ruled against the Republicans.  Yet the Legislature has refused again and again to turn over the documentation explaining why the redistricting was done so radically — instead, they just obfuscate while they dilly-dally, perhaps hoping that by sitting on their hands that the judges will just get bored and go away.

But that hasn’t happened.

Lest you think these are liberal appointees, think again.  Judge J.P. Stadtmueller was appointed by Ronald Reagan.   Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr., was appointed by George W. Bush.  Only Judge Diane P. Wood was appointed by a Democratic President, Bill Clinton.

So we have two conservative judges who are most unamused by the Republicans; as another quote from the recent Journal-Sentinel article puts it:

In essence, the judges again found there was little the Republicans can keep from the plaintiffs, a Democratic group.

The panel of judges – two of whom are Republican appointees – gave a rhetorical smack to the GOP lawmakers and their attorneys.

The court “will not suffer the sort of disinformation, foot-dragging, and obfuscation now being engaged in by Wisconsin’s elected officials and/or their attorneys,” the ruling reads.

Once again, judges rarely are this angry, and even more rarely do they show their anger in this fashion.

So here’s the deal; the GOP redistricting plan appears likely to go down in flames.  The Democrats who challenged it (none of whom are in office right now) did so on the basis that the new districts’ boundaries violate the Federal Voting Rights Act and the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution because of the way these new proposed boundaries would treat minorities and by how many people (well over 300,000) are shifted arbitrarily for what seems like little or no reason except for blatant political advantage.

The reason this is of interest to me, and to anyone in Southeastern Wisconsin, is simple: Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) is my current state Senator.  He voted for Senate Bill 10 — that is, to get rid of collective bargaining for public employee unions, with the sole exceptions of police and fire personnel.  And in exchange, he appears to have received a really nice benefit from the redistricting in that his new district 21 would include most of rural Kenosha County and most of rural Racine County — while the urban areas of Racine and Kenosha would become district 22. 

District 22 is Bob Wirch’s district; he’s a Democrat.  While I greatly admire Sen. Wirch and worked on his behalf last summer to help him withstand recall and be retained, I would prefer the boundaries to stay as they’ve traditionally been; district 22 is most of Kenosha County, including the City of Kenosha, while district 21 is mostly made up of Racine County, including the City of Racine.  This arrangement means that both district 22 and district 21 are “in play,” so that a good legislator of either party can potentially win the seat of either district; it also means that the legislator who’s in office had better listen to the will of the people, or he or she will end up getting recalled and replaced.

This, currently, is the case with regards to Van Wanggaard in district 21.  Signatures have been gathered, and there are more than enough to get Wanggaard recalled, I’m reliably informed — which means that the Racine office has, bare minimum, over 16,000 people who’ve signed to force Wanggaard to a recall election.  (Signatures will be filed on January 15, 2012.)  Wanggaard went against the will of his district in casting his vote for Senate Bill 10 — the stripped-down bones of Scott Walker’s “budget repair bill” minus any obvious financial verbiage — despite being a past member of the police union; worse yet for him, Wanggaard was a union representative way back when, something he probably hopes most people in Racine have forgotten.  This was extremely hypocritical and is not something Racine voters are likely to forgive, which is why I firmly expect Wanggaard to be replaced as soon as the recall election is called.

Note that Wanggaard was very well aware that a Republican legislator had been recalled in district 21 before; this was George Petak, and I wrote about him and his recall race here.  Which is why he probably had to be promised something in exchange for his vote; elsewise, why would he do it?  And promising him a more favorable district 21 — one where he’d have a tougher time getting recalled, as the rural areas of both Kenosha and Racine Counties tend to be more conservative — was probably the likely thing that changed Wanggaard’s mind to vote in favor of SB 10.

So Wanggaard, the former union member, the former union representative, voted against collective bargaining.  Then he voted in favor of the new redistricting plan later on; this passed on a party-line vote in the Senate, meaning all 14 Dems voted no, while all 19 Rs voted yes.  (In the Assembly, a few Rs voted against it, along with almost all the Dems.  But it was still a largely party-line vote.)  And Wanggaard had to think he’d be less likely to be recalled this way.

But I have news; the people who voted Wanggaard in, including those voters in the City of Racine, are the ones who get the privilege of voting him right back out again (or possibly retaining him, though that doesn’t seem too likely an outcome).  And that’s the way it should be.

So bring on the recall election for Senator Wanggaard, right along with the recalls of Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.  All three will be gone within months.  Then watch as the new, gerrymandered districts get tossed out via the federal court panel . . . so ultimately, Wanggaard will have ended up squandering his own seat for nothing.  (Them’s the breaks, Van.)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

January 5, 2012 at 12:37 am

One Response

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  1. [...] recall efforts as they did last summer, they have absolutely no right to complain now.  (Or as I said the other day with regards to Wanggaard’s impending recall election:  ” Them’s the [...]


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