Thursday, March 22, 2012

Federal Court Upholds Redistricting But Calls It Clearly Partisan

The three Federal Judge Panel in Milwaukee hearing the redistricting lawsuit upheld the GOP legislature's work with one small requirement that two contiguous assembly districts in Milwaukee County be tweaked to avoid creation of districts that served to disenfranchise Hispanic voters.  The three Federal Judges, two appointed by Republican presidents and one appointed by a Democratic president, did not let the overtly partisan aspect of the redistricting go unnoticed however, beginning their opinion with the following statement:  "There was once a time when Wisconsin was famous for its courtesy and its tradition of good government."   The court made clear it felt the GOP actions in the redistricting process were a little douchey (which as used here means contrary to reasonable notions of democracy).

Other comments by the court:
The new governor and legislators were sworn in on January 3, 2011, and the very next day the Republican legislative leadership announced to members of the Democratic minority that the Republicans would be provided unlimited funds to hire counsel and consultants for the purposes of legislative redistricting. They informed the Democrats that they would not receive any funding for this process.
 . . .
We find that although the drafting of Act 43 was needlessly secret, regrettably excluding input from the overwhelming majority of Wisconsin citizens, and although the final product needlessly moved more than a million Wisconsinites and disrupted their long-standing political relationships, the resulting population deviations are not large enough to permit judicial intervention under the Supreme Court's precedents.
. . .
While we share Dr. Mayer’s [the Plaintiff's expert] concerns in many respects and find ourselves largely unpersuaded by Professor Grofman’s [the GOP expert] incomplete testimony to the contrary, we return to the degree of the deviations, which were nowhere close to the 10% number that the Supreme Court mentioned in 1983. The maximum deviation for assembly districts is 0.76% and 0.62% for senate districts. Numbers like these place a very heavy burden on the plaintiffs to show a constitutional violation. In the final analysis, they have failed to surmount that burden. We come to that conclusion not because we credit the testimony of Foltz, Ottman, and the other drafters to the effect that they were not influenced by partisan factors; indeed, we find those statements to be almost laughable. But the partisan motivation that, in our view, clearly lay behind Act 43 is not enough to overcome the de minimis population deviations that the drafters achieved, at least under this theory. We therefore find no merit in Claims One or Eight and conclude that they must be dismissed.  (Emphasis supplied.)
Stay tuned to see how the two Milwaukee districts that heed to be realigned will get done before the recall election.  The legislature's legislative session wrapped up last week.

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