May 26, 2016

Wisconsin Gerrymandering Trial Under Way Before Federal Panel

Wisconsin Republicans crafted the worst partisan gerrymander in modern American history in their secret effort to turn Wisconsin into a red state

Whitford v. Nichol, (District Court (Case 3:15-cv-00421)) (2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 155022 (W.D. Wis., Nov. 17, 2015)), is a federal case at trial from May 23-27, challenging the constitutionality of Wisconsin's Republican-drawn legislative-redistricting scheme.

A three-judge panel is hearing the case.

The federal panel is composed of Kenneth Francis Ripple, (Senior Judge status, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit), Barbara Crabb, (Senior Judge status U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin), and William C. Griesbach (Chief Judge, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin).

Wisconsin Republicans were told in secret to sign confidentiality agreements, ignore the public and repeat Republican-crafted talking points in deliberating 2011 Act 43, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported in February 2012:
As legislative leaders secretly developed new election maps last year to strengthen their majority, Republican lawmakers were told to ignore public comments and instead focus on what was said in private strategy sessions, according to a GOP memo that became public Monday.

Other newly released documents also show almost all Republican lawmakers signed legal agreements promising not to discuss the new maps while they were being developed.

GOP lawmakers fought releasing these new documents and testifying about the maps in a pending court case, [since decided], but relented after a panel of three federal judges based in Milwaukee last month found they had filed frivolous motions in trying to shield the information from the public.
Included in the documents released Monday was a set of talking points that stressed that those who discussed the maps could eventually be called as a witness in a court case.

'Public comments on this map may be different than what you hear in this room. Ignore the public comments,' the talking points also say. (Patrick Marley, Daniel Bice and Jason Stein)

The plaintiffs are William Whitford, Roger Anclam, Emily Bunting, Mary Lynne Donohue, Helen Harris, Wayne Jensen, Wendy Sue Johnson, Janet Mitchell, James Seaton, Allison Seaton, Jerome Wallace and Donald Winter.

The July 2105 complaint reads in part

Plaintiffs seek both a declaratory judgment that the Wisconsin State Assembly district plan adopted in 2012 by Wisconsin Act 43 (the “Current Plan”) violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and an order permanently enjoining the implementation of the Current Plan in the 2016 election.  As explained in greater detail below, the Current Plan is, by any measure, one of the worst partisan gerrymanders in modern American history.  In the first election in which it was in force in 2012, the Current Plan enabled Republican candidates to win sixty of the Assembly’s ninety-nine seats even though Democratic candidates won a majority of the statewide Assembly vote. The evidence is overwhelming that the Current Plan was adopted to achieve precisely that result:  indeed, before submitting the map for approval, the Republican leadership retained an expert (at State expense) who predicted the partisan performance of each proposed district—as it turned out, with remarkable accuracy.

The Republican-drawn gerrymander is Wisconsin Republicans at their worst: Secretive, corrupt and anti-public.

"Republicans disregarded traditional county and city boundaries that are normally used to draw districts. Act 43 splits 58 counties even though county boundaries are supposed to be respected. For the first time, gerrymandered maps were used to draw wards, when previously wards had been used to draw maps. Memos and draft maps were prepared for review by individual Republican legislators, but Democratic legislators were entirely excluded," notes Mary Botari at PRWatch.

The state of Wisconsin on its official Redistricting website claims "the purpose of redistricting and the end result remain unchanged ... the establishment of election districts which provide representational equality for all potential voters."

This would be a lie. Republican gerrymandering in Wisconsin is intended to help elect Republicans period.

Linked ahead is Exhibit 4 -Secrecy Agreements, (PDF, beginning at p. 173), in the complaint listing all of the legislative Republicans who signed secrecy agreements with Michael Best and Friedrich LLP.

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