Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘federal court challenge

Surprise! Federal Judges Want Rs to Redraw WI District Maps

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Folks, even I didn’t see this one coming.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, at this link, reports that the three-judge panel from the United States District Court (Eastern District of Wisconsin) has asked the Wisconsin Legislature (thus in actuality, the Wisconsin Republican Party as all three branches of government in Wisconsin are currently controlled by the GOP) to “consider re-drawing” the district maps that are currently in dispute by taking into account the problems Latinos and the Democratic Party have with the maps and fixing the problems accordingly.

The Journal-Sentinel reports:

The court gave the Legislature until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to decide whether it wants to revisit the maps it approved last summer. If it does not, the trial challenging the maps will resume Wednesday. If lawmakers agree to take up the maps anew, the court would give them until mid-March to approve them.

Apparently the reason the judges want the Legislature to re-draw the maps (rather than go to trial) is because they honestly feel that the Legislature should draw the maps — just, perhaps, not these maps.  (Or in science-fictional terms, “These aren’t the maps you’re looking for.  Move along.”)

Here’s more from the article that discusses what presiding judge J.P. Stadtmueller thinks:

At the opening of trial, presiding Judge J.P. Stadtmueller said drawing district lines is the purview of lawmakers, 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. He said legislators should consider setting new maps with those concerns in mind.

Next is my favorite part of the article:

Stadtmueller and the others on the panel have repeatedly criticized Republican lawmakers for being overly secretive in how they drew the maps. Almost all lawmakers signed secrecy agreements about the maps and they tried repeatedly to prevent their aides from having to testify or produce documents. Those attempts were unsuccessful, and last month the panel ordered the Republicans’ attorneys to pay the other side $17,500 for filing frivolous motions.

Note that Stadtmueller said that the “one-day pause” should not be taken as an indication of how the three-judge panel will rule — but then again, does it really need to be, considering the fact that on four prior occasions, the three-judge panel has heavily chastised the Wisconsin Rs for backroom shenanigans and an absolute lack of transparency?

My take on this is simple: if the judges didn’t believe there were grounds to strike down these maps — and good grounds, at that — they wouldn’t have made this extraordinary offer to the Wisconsin Rs.  Because the offer basically says this: “Fix the maps on your own.  Or we’ll likely end up fixing them for you.”

The entirety of the Wisconsin Legislature, along with Governor Scott Walker (R), now have until 5:30 p.m. CST to make a decision as to whether or not they’re willing to re-visit these maps and attempt to re-draw them in a way that the court is likely to approve.

If I had to guess at what the Wisconsin Rs are going to do, though, my guess is this: they won’t re-draw the maps.  They’ll instead go back into court tomorrow, and try to impugn the three-judge panel on every media station that will allow them to do so within the state of Wisconsin (and probably on national cable such as Fox News, too, no doubt) because somehow, these three judges will be seen as “activist liberal judges” who just want to cause trouble for the Rs because the Rs are sweet, innocent, and completely in the right in every way, shape, or form.  The fact that two of these three judges were appointed by Republican Presidents, mind you, will go completely by the boards when it comes to the media, but I can assure you that the judges themselves know full well who appointed them, and why. 

This is why if I were a Republican, I’d be calling my legislators — and the Governor, too, no doubt — and urging them to take this deal before it’s too late.  Otherwise, the judges will not be pleased . . . and my best guess after that, considering all the chicanery that’s gone on over the past year-plus since Scott Walker and the R-dominated Legislature came to power, is that the GOP will end up getting its comeuppance in a way that party had never foreseen — otherwise known as, “By their fruits, ye shall know them.”

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm

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.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 5, 2012 at 12:37 am