Dueling Claims Over Wisconsin Redistricting
WAUKESHA, Wisc. (CN) - Republican voters want Gov. Scott Walker's 2011 Redistricting Plan declared constitutional so that any recalls of state lawmakers be held in newly drawn districts that favor the Republican Party.
Democratic voters previously filed a federal complaint seeking to overturn the Republican-drawn maps. A trial on that is scheduled for February.
In the new complaint, Republicans want the state enjoined from using the old districts, drawn in 2002, for the recall elections.
Wisconsin Democrats are gathering signatures to recall four Republican state senators - Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau and state Sens. Pam Galloway of Wausau, Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls and Van Wanggaard of Racine. The petitions are due Jan. 17, which means the courts will most likely rule quickly on which maps to use.
Republicans who control the Legislature drew new maps of legislative districts to account for population changes reflected by the 2010 U.S. Census.
Shortly after the enactment of the 2011 Redistricting Plan, the state's Government Accountability Board "issued formal guidance" that any recall elections held before the November 2012 be conducted in the old legislative districts.
The Republican voters, who sued the members of the Accountability Board in Waukesha County Court, claim "there is no dispute that the prior legislative districts are unconstitutionally malapportioned." They claim that allowing a recall vote in the old districts "amounts to a clear violation of the constitutional provision concerning the recall elective officers set forth in Article XIII, Section 12 of the Wisconsin Constitution." This will result in "the potential disenfranchisement of nearly one million Wisconsin citizens," according to their complaint.
The most recent redistricting before this year was in 2002, based on the 2000 Census.
Also after this year's redistricting, the Republican-controlled Legislature changed the law so that any legal challenges to the new maps are to be heard by a three-judge panel, with appeals going directly to the state Supreme Court.
With the filing of their lawsuit in Waukesha County, the Republican voters request a three-judge panel.
According to court records, however, an amendment to this complaint was filed on Dec. 2, changing the plaintiffs' request from a three-judge panel to that of a single Waukesha County judge.
In an identical lawsuit the Republican voters filed last week in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, they asked the court to appoint a panel of three circuit court judges to hear its arguments, or if it declined to do that, to have the supreme court take up the case itself.
The Republican voters withdrew the supreme court lawsuit on Dec. 2, the same day they filed their Waukesha County amendment to request that only one judge hear the case.
The new filings came right after an announcement by the Wisconsin Supreme Court that Justice David Prosser, whose narrow electoral victory this year preserved the Republican hold on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, will be taking time off due to a health issue.
The Waukesha County lawsuit was filed under legislation enacted this year, which allows people suing the state to file in the county of their choosing. Before the new legislation, such lawsuits had to be filed in Dane County, home to the state capital.
The Republican voters are represented by Eric McLeod, with Michael, Best & Friedrich - one of two law firms that received a portion of the $400,000 that Wisconsin taxpayers paid to oversee the drawing of the new district maps.