Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘WI redistricting lawsuit

WI Recalls and Redistricting, 2012 Edition

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Tonight, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) has appealed the largely-favorable ruling the three-judge federal panel gave regarding the 2012 redistricting process to the United States Supreme Court (otherwise known as SCOTUS).  Van Hollen did this despite saying last month that the federal judges had “vindicated” the 2010 maps, which were drawn by the WI GOP in a highly partisan and divisive process.

But tonight, Van Hollen is singing a different tune.  His pro-appeal reasoning, as given by tonight’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article, is this:

“While some view the adverse portion of the district court decision as being inconsequential, I disagree,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “Any time a federal court rejects a state redistricting statute, and decides to redraw or adjust a legislative district, it is a serious matter and appropriate for appellate review.”

Um, excuse me?

Don’t you realize that by appealing this order, this allows the whole ruling to be appealed?  Meaning the Democrats could, theoretically, still prevail?

Well, even if Van Hollen doesn’t get it, the Democrats in Wisconsin sure do.  Doug Poland, an attorney for the Democrats who filed suit, said last month that if the state was silly enough to appeal the ruling, he would do whatever he could to get the entire ruling overturned in order to obtain a better outcome.  (He said it in a much gentler fashion, and he didn’t say the appeal by Van Hollen was “silly.”  I did, and am, because it is.)

Mind you, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) understands that this is a frivolous waste of time; he says in tonight’s Journal-Sentinel article (the first one referenced above) that:

“Does their appetite for wasting taxpayer money on protecting their own political interests ever end?” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said in a statement. “It must be the first time in history anyone has appealed their ‘vindication’ to the Supreme Court.”

Then, the Journal-Sentinel pointed out how much this redistricting court case has already cost the state of Wisconsin:

Republican lawmakers have committed $400,000 in taxpayer money to Michael Best & Friedrich and the Troupis Law Office for their work on redistricting. Separately, Gov. Scott Walker hired Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren to assist the Department of Justice with the litigation. That firm’s contract with the state caps its fees at $925,000; as of February, it had billed the state $288,000.

In addition, the plaintiffs are seeking about $690,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs from the state because they prevailed on their argument on Assembly Districts 8 and 9. The panel has not yet said whether it would award those fees.

So, did you get all that?  The WI GOP won, but they’re not happy; they want it all, or they’ll take their ball and go home.  (Me, I just wish they’d leave the ball and stay home.)  That’s why they’re appealing this ruling, which largely went their way, to SCOTUS.

My take?  I find this shameful, as it’s a shocking waste of money (in a state soon-to-be-former Governor Scott Walker says is “broke”).  I also echo the often-made comments of political commentator John Nichols, when he’s said on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” (and elsewhere) that the WI GOP are comprised of “very bad winners.”  (My best paraphrase, that.)  And I firmly agree with Rep. Barca; what on earth is wrong with these people?  They win and still don’t like it?

Otherwise, there’s a hint of good news amidst a lot of bad regarding the four state Senate recalls.  Here’s the link to that Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article, written by long-time political analyst Craig Gilbert:

Gilbert states that only former Senator John Lehman (D-Racine) is within striking distance of his opponent, current Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine).  (Lehman appears to be within the margin of error, as the recent poll Gilbert used said that Wanggaard leads, 48-46.)  The other three Senate districts, including the district vacated by Pam Galloway, have Republicans leading the Democratic challengers by wide margins.  (See this link to the Daily Kos article that references this data for further information.)

Due to former Senator Galloway’s abrupt resignation (possibly to get a stronger candidate in there as she would’ve lost her recall race), the WI Senate is currently divided equally, 16-16.  That means if Lehman can beat Wanggaard, the Ds will control the state Senate, 17-16; further elections in 2012 should help the Dems cement their lead.

And as I’ve said here before, we have recalled a Republican before in district 21, so it’s certainly not uncharted territory for us to recall another one.

Still Waiting for Federal Judges’ Ruling in WI Redistricting Lawsuit

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Believe it or not, folks, the three-judge federal panel has still not come out with a ruling on the Wisconsin redistricting case.  The longer they stay out, the more complex things are likely to get; right now, candidates must register to run in the proposed new districts by early April, but if the judges’ ruling says that the redistricting done by the Wisconsin GOP legislators is unconstitutional, all bets are off regarding candidates, their districts, and filing for elections in the fall.

So every day the federal judges delay their ruling is another day that the legislators have to wonder, “Which seat am I supposed to run for again?”

This isn’t a trivial issue, folks; using my own Assembly district as a model, right now I am in district 61.  My Assemblyman is Robert Turner, a highly respected legislator — and a Democrat.  But the re-districting “drew” me into a new map; I’m now in district 66.  Robert Turner says that is now going to be his district (providing the maps hold up), per his office’s correspondence; you can see where this could be a major problem, considering how many districts got changed (including the district numbering), right?

I haven’t a clue what most of the legislators plan to do if the new proposed district maps get struck down by the federal judges; I do know that if the judges uphold the maps, there will be likely be further lawsuits, which will further cloud the issue. 

Of course, if the judges strike down the new districts, the Wisconsin GOP is very likely to immediately appeal to the United States Supreme Court, which is bound by law to take the case in an expedited fashion.  So either way, it seems to me the federal judges lose — but the Wisconsin voters, like me, lose even more.

As always, I’ll keep you posted.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 20, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Editing this Week; Waiting for Federal Judges’ Ruling in Redistricting Case

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Happy Friday, everyone.

This week I’ve spent a lot of time editing, which is why I haven’t blogged overmuch. Plus, I’ve been awaiting the three-judge federal panel from the United States District Court to rule on the Wisconsin redistricting case all week, but so far, they haven’t made a ruling.

This, quite frankly, is puzzling. The three-judge Federal panel needs to file their ruling within ten days of the end of testimony — but testimony ended on February 24, 2012 and it’s now March 9, 2012. (Perhaps the “ten days” includes next Monday, and that’s why there’s been no ruling as of yet?)

So that’s about it — just editing, doing a bit of writing here and there, and waiting for the judges to make up their mind — a typical Friday here in Wisconsin, at least for me.

Enjoy your weekend, folks.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 9, 2012 at 7:02 pm

WI Rs Refuse to Re-Draw Maps; Trial Resumes Tomorrow

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Here’s the latest regarding the trial going on in the United States District Court (Eastern Division of Wisconsin) — the Wisconsin Republicans, who control the Legislature, the Governor’s chair, and the state Supreme Court, have decided they “do not have the power” to re-draw the maps as the three-judge panel headed by Judge Stadtmueller asked them to do.

Here’s the link to the story at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Now, as to the merits of the Republican argument?  They are pointing to a 1954 Wisconsin state Supreme Court decision, which the Rs believe disallows any re-drawing of the district maps; the Rs say they would “like to” revisit the maps, but they just can’t.  The reason this is such a big deal is that every ten years, these maps must be re-drawn; because the Rs won all three branches of the state government, there was almost nothing the Democrats could do to stop them from doing anything they liked.   This is the main reason the Democrats sued.

Here’s a new quote from the updated story at the Journal-Sentinel:

The panel – which includes two judges appointed by Republican presidents and one appointed by a Democratic president – has repeatedly criticized Republican lawmakers in written orders for their secretive process for drawing the maps.

On Tuesday, presiding Judge J.P. Stadtmueller did the same shortly after hearing that attorneys for the legislators had released a new batch of emails Friday that they had not previously disclosed they had. The release of emails came a day after the court had ordered the lawmakers’ attorneys to make public a separate group of emails.

“The facts are the facts and what has occurred here is beyond the pale in terms of lack of transparency (and) secrecy,” Stadtmueller said. “Appearances are everything and Wisconsin has prided itself one generation after another on openness and fairness in doing the right thing. And to be frank we have seen everything but that in the way this case has proceeded.”

Now, the lack of transparency regarding e-mails may seem like a minor issue, but if you’ve followed along with my previous blogs upon the subject, you know it isn’t.  The Rs have been chastised four separate times to date over their lack of transparency; as Judge Stadtmueller said above, this isn’t the right thing to do.

Here’s the deal, folks.  What the Rs have done in Wisconsin reminds me of the old axiom that goes like this:  “Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  This is because they felt they could do anything they liked and no one would say anything to them over it.  Even after hundreds of thousands went out to protest all over the state of Wisconsin last year over the high-handed, dictatorial way Governor Scott Walker went about eliminating collective bargaining for most public-employee union members, the Rs didn’t change their ways.

Now, the Rs have been sued because of the way these maps have been drawn.  And they say they “lack the power” to change them even though they control all three branches of government.

I’m sorry.  I don’t buy this argument, and I am really disgusted that it’s taken this three-judge panel to get the Rs to admit they really should re-draw these maps (but they just can’t).

As I said before, I fully expect the three-judge panel to be excoriated by the Rs in coming days.  The Rs have a great deal of money and can put many ads on television; they’ll blame “activist judges,” no doubt, and hope that the people don’t realize that two of the three judges on the panel were appointed by Republican Presidents, including Judge Stadtmueller himself (appointed by Ronald Reagan).

What it seems to me the state GOP is hoping for is that the district court will rule against them; after that, they will appeal to the United States Supreme Court, and because there are five well-known conservative justices there, they figure they will get their way.  (Two of the five, in particular, would seem to be sympathetic right off the bat — Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia — but it’s possible even they might find the way the Wisconsin Rs have behaved objectionable.)

But there’s nothing saying that the five conservative justices on the Supreme Court must back the Wisconsin GOP, now, is there?  Because if all conservatives behaved the same way, wouldn’t you think this three-judge panel would’ve tossed this lawsuit summarily right off the bat, as two of the three judges on the panel are conservative-appointees?

It’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not these maps are going to hold up.  But my hunch is that they’ll be overturned, even if they do get appealed to the US Supreme Court; eventually, these maps will end up being re-drawn by the courts.  And providing these maps are indeed overturned, that will be a victory for the people of Wisconsin.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm

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:

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