Just a few hours after presiding Federal Judge J.P. Stadtmueller strongly suggested that GOP lawmakers revisit contentious redistricting maps, attorneys for those lawmakers returned with a weak excuse for rejecting the Court’s suggestion. Attorneys for the GOP said leaders were “…willing to consider making changes to the maps but believed a 1954 opinion by the state Supreme Court prevented them from doing so.” This argument was weakened by emails from GOP attorneys at Michael, Best and Friedrich last year claiming the ability to “redraw the lines” should a recall election necessitate that action. GOP lawmakers did not consult with their Democratic counterparts, and continue a brash show of arrogance in the Federal Case, set to begin sometime on Wednesday. Judges have told counsel to be ready on “45 minute notice.”
In a surprise development, it appears all but certain that lead redistricting attorney for Republicans Jim Troupis will testify. Voces de la Frontera has subpoenaed Troupis for information relating to emails, specifically regarding drawing of districts in Hispanic Milwaukee districts. The Badger Democracy blog from February 17 revealed the participation of Professor Keith Gaddie in the Wisconsin redistricting process, and it appears GOP lawmakers and attorneys will be depending on his expertise at trial. Gaddie has a long history of giving “expert testimony” in redistricting trials. His almost certain testimony in Wisconsin will closely echo his testimony in a Maryland case last year.
In the Maryland case, Gaddie addressed the issues which the Wisconsin GOP hired him to secure for them – statistical compliance with the Voter Rights Act, specifically Section 2. Gaddie spent a significant amount of time on this issue in Wisconsin, staying at the Concourse Hotel in Madison from May 25-29th, 2011 with his expenses being direct-billed to Michael, Best and Friedrich. The Federal Courts tend to focus on two key aspects in a redistricting trial – the concept of “one person-one vote” or equal representation; and compliance with the Voting Rights Act. It is apparent from the released emails that the GOP feels they have a strong case in these two areas. The attorneys specifically reference a “60-54” Hispanic District (60% total population, 54% voting eligible population) in the emails. Low 50% is usually considered compliant.
As referenced in the previous Badger Democracy blog linked above, there are many issues with the nature of this map. Not the least of which is the ability of a borderline ideologue such as Gaddie to “overpack” a majority-minority district to dilute the minority vote in surrounding districts – something Gaddie himself has admitted to in his own publication, The Southern Political Report. Thereby making a minority district surrounded by conservative “leaning” districts with a net GOP gain.
There is a fatal flaw in the GOP strategy, however. In spite of Gaddie and the GOP ability to skew the numbers and demonstrate a loose adherence with the Voting Rights Act (which they know historically to be the Court’s focus), they have ignored several underlying issues in their overbearing arrogance. The court has already sent signals to the parties they are looking beyond these basic issues, and the GOP has ignored the warnings and is proceeding with the defense of an indefensible process. Here are those issues:
Voter Disenfranchisement: There are over 300,000 voters in Wisconsin who would not be able to vote for a State Senator in 2012, not able to vote for that office until 2014. In 1983, a Federal court threw out Wisconsin maps for a mere 174,000 voters disenfranchised. There are challenges to many urban minority districts as well, that the minority vote is diluted (see above).
Compactness of Districts – There are several instances of non-contiguous districts and wards on the new Wisconsin map – even in Dane County. There are also cores of some districts in both rural and urban areas that have been shifted for political purposes.
The Process – This will be the “kicker.” Especially of note is the likely testimony of lead attorney Jim Troupis as to the process itself – which is proven to be partisan and political at its best, fraudulent at its worst. The GOP is most vulnerable in this regard – and their arrogance disallows their admittance to this fact – and it will be their undoing.
From the beginning, the GOP chose this path to redistricting. Indeed, they have chosen this path to governing in 2011-2012; and through protests, recalls, this trial, more recalls, criminal indictments, and John Doe investigations; the time has come for them to pay the piper. If you think they have one ounce of humility or compromise in them – take a look at bills that passed the GOP legislatures today.
This movement cannot rest until Wisconsin is once again a beacon of clean government and the progressive movement.