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Republicans signed pledge to keep redistricting process secret, Democrats respond

Posted by on Feb. 8, 2012 at 9:16 AM
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Republicans signed pledge to keep redistricting process secret, Democrats respond

Post by Emily Mills on 2/7/2012 3:12pm

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Republicans signed pledge to keep redistricting process secret, Democrats respond

A set of documents released on Monday show a majority of Republican legislators--58 representatives and 17 senators--signed legal agreements promising not to discuss new redistricting maps while they were being developed last year.

The papers also show that GOP legislators were instructed to ignore the public statements regarding redistricting made by party leaders, and instead only focus on what was said in private strategy sessions.

The GOP retained the help of law firm Michael Best & Friedrich in drafting the new maps and used their offices for the work. Republicans resisted the release of the documents and testifying about the maps as part of a pending court case, claiming that the arrangement provided attorney-client privilege that would keep the documents from the public.

They 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."

A group of Democratic residents sued over the then still to be release maps in federal court in Milwaukee. That lawsuit was consolidated with a similar one filed by immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera and will go before the three-judge panel Feb. 21. The groups allege that the maps violate the U.S. Constitution and federal Voting Rights Act because of their effect on minority communities and how they move voters from one district to another.

After the release of the new documents Voces on Monday filed a complaint with Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne arguing that the Republican redistricting process violated the state's open meetings law. (view the complaint - .pdf)

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has repeatedly claimed that the redistricting process was not partisan in nature. He denied a move by Senate Democrats last year to retain their own legal representation for the process, claiming that Michael Best & Friedrich worked for the entire Senate body and therefor separate attorneys were not necessary.

Based on Fitzgerald's claims and the release of the new documents Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) today sent a letter to attorney Eric McLeod at the law firm requesting access to their work on the redistricting process:

...it is my understanding, as the elected State Senator of the 27th Senate District, I am your client. As your client I would like to review the file regarding your firm’s work on redistricting.

Attorney client privilege should not be an issue here because I am one of the 33 clients you represent.

If it’s not your understanding that your firm represents all 33 Wisconsin State Senators, then perhaps we need further clarification from Sen. Fitzgerald. Otherwise, please provide me with a copy of the entire redistricting file.

To be very clear, I really have a disdain for reading about a case that involves me and the entire Wisconsin State Senate in the newspaper.

by on Feb. 8, 2012 at 9:16 AM
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jewjewbee
by Silver Member on Feb. 8, 2012 at 10:32 AM

I think I recall the fact that gerrymandering was brought up in Answers, oh yeah- by myself LOL- numerous times. It's not a secret. It became public knowledge after the 08 election that the GOP would do this anywhere they could. It happens on both sides of the aisle every so often.

Mamawto4
by Bronze Member on Feb. 8, 2012 at 11:38 AM
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Quoting jewjewbee:

I think I recall the fact that gerrymandering was brought up in Answers, oh yeah- by myself LOL- numerous times. It's not a secret. It became public knowledge after the 08 election that the GOP would do this anywhere they could. It happens on both sides of the aisle every so often.

Yep, it happens every time there is a census, (maybe more often, but I don't know about it if it does) which is every ten years, and whoever the majority party is, is the party that gets to do the redrawing of the district maps.  At least this map looks a lot better than many I've seen where some parts of districts don't even touch other parts of the same district.

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