Matt Rothschild

Why Federal Court Overruled State Map

Republicans gerrymandered districts so that whatever the vote, they never lost control.

By , Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Nov 22nd, 2016 11:37 am
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Assembly Districts

A panel of federal judges on Monday tossed the redistricting maps that Scott Walker and Republican legislative leaders have used to solidify their hold on power in Wisconsin.

By a vote of 2-1, the judges sided with the plaintiffs, a group of Democratic voters in Wisconsin, in the so-called Whitford case.

At trial in June, the plaintiffs demonstrated that the Republican leadership, with clear partisan intent, designed district maps that greatly increased the likelihood that Republicans would pad their majority of seats in the legislature even if a majority of voters statewide voted Democratic.

The trial also showed that this rigged map-drawing was done in secret, behind locked doors in the offices of a high-priced Madison law firm, Michael Best & Friedrich. The public wasn’t allowed in. The media wasn’t allowed in. Democratic legislators weren’t allowed in. And Republican legislators had to sign an oath of secrecy once they were allowed in.

The resulting bill, signed by Walker, was called Act 43.

“It is clear that the drafters got what they intended to get,” concluded federal judges Barbara Crabb and Kenneth Ripple. “There is no question that Act 43 was designed to make it more difficult for Democrats, compared to Republicans, to translate their votes into seats. . . . It secured for Republicans a lasting Assembly majority. It did so by allocating votes among the newly created districts in such a way that, in any likely electoral scenario, the number of Republican seats would not drop below 50%.”

Judges Crabb and Ripple stressed the fact that the rigged map was designed to be durable:

“In sum, we conclude that the plaintiffs have established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Act 43 burdens the representational rights of Democratic voters in Wisconsin by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats, not simply for one election but throughout the life of Act 43.”

And they found no legitimate state interest for the drawing of such a rigged map.

They also found the claim of innocence on the part of the Republican map drawers to be not credible in the least.

The defendants testified that their map “did not have a ‘forward-looking component,’ but was simply ‘an average of past elections applied to the new districts.’ We reject as not worthy of belief the assertion that the drafters would have expended the time to calculate a composite score for each district on the statewide maps simply to gain an historical understanding of voting behavior,” wrote Crabb and Ripple.

Even the dissenting judge, William Griesbach, agreed on this point.

“My colleagues rightly conclude that when political staffers compile historical voting information about potential districts, their claim that they did not intend to use that information to predict future voting patterns is hardly worthy of belief,” he wrote.

The majority decision by Crabb and Ripple did not provide a remedy as of yet. They have asked both sides to submit briefs on the subject.

Matthew Rothschild is executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Categories: Campaign Cash, Politics

4 thoughts on “Why Federal Court Overruled State Map”

  1. Scott says:

    See Matt Flynn’s piece from back in June for additional background on gerrymandering. The infographic he includes is very insightful – http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2016/06/14/op-ed-why-court-will-overturn-redistricting/

  2. Patricia Jursik says:

    Voters must stop supporting their elected Representatives that take privacy oaths and allow public information to be hidden behind lawyer/client privilege. The client is not the elected Representative as a person, the client is the populace he/she was elected to represent. The public has a right to know. Anyone taking these “loyalty” oaths, i.e. loyalty to the party, is being disloyal to the citizens they represent. Any elected official that is found to have signed such an oath should be subject to recall or at the very least get voted out at the next election for their dereliction of duty to the citizen being represented.

    Michael Best also destroyed evidence, i.e. the people’s property. As I recall they were reprimanded by the trial judge in the first case brought on behalf of disenfranchised Latinos. It is time the public coffers stop paying the salaries of these firms and ethics complaints should quickly follow. Where is the Office of Lawyer Responsibility? Oh by the way, Reince Priebus is a member of M. B & F. and now is behind closed doors at the White House.

  3. Tom Simons says:

    The issue of the many missing LabTops , smashed hard drives and unaccountability of the electronic files that were used behind closed doors and in secret meetings is very damaging to say the least . Locking out the Dems from this process?? Recalls are the very least that should occur. Each and every fine hard working WI citizen should be discussed and demand resolve ASAP !!! You talk about the finger on the ole scale ! WI deserves much , much better and our Atty General better start representing All of WI not just the GOP’s cronies and Corporate controllers !! Clean house !! Yes that’s you Walker, Fitzgeralds, Robbing Vos and the rest of your Ilk!! All WI lives matter !!! Shame shame shame !!

  4. PT says:

    The minions that voted for these Con men have absolutely no clue. They see an R – That’s all that matters

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