Redistricting trial to reconvene Wednesday
MILWAUKEE -- A trial over Wisconsin's redistricting maps is set to move forward as early as Wednesday afternoon. Attorneys were told to be on standby for a court call, and to be available within 45 minutes of the call.
At Milwaukee's federal courthouse, lawyers met before a three-judge panel. Earlier in the day Judge J.P. Stadtmueller had asked both sides to return to the bargaining table and hammer out an agreement without a trial.
"The court asked us to go and approach the legislature and see if they were willing to make a good faith effort to address the issues that were raised in this case, " Maria Lazar, an assistant attorney general defending the redistricting maps on behalf of the Government Accountability Board.
Lazar argued that the case is closed on redistricting -- that legal precedent states it can only take place once every decade. "Those are laws that have been signed by the Governor and we're defending their constitutionality," she said. "At this time, our review of this case shows us that it's not possible to revisit it."
Plaintiffs attorneys declined to be interviewed, saying they would try the case in a courtroom, not in the media. However, the Democrats did signal they would be willing to work out a new agreement.
Lawyers from several sides came to the federal courthouse in Milwaukee Tuesday, prepared for a trial. Several groups are challenging the remapping of voter districts approved by a Republican legislature. These groups say voting maps, drawn by Republicans in secret deprive Latinos and other groups of voting strength, and say the maps are unconstitutional because some 300,000 people would be placed in new districts, and have to wait six years to vote for a state senator.
Instead, three judges suggested the legislature handle it Tuesday.
"The judge seems to recognize there is a very important political component to the issues the plaintiff brings, and these issues should go on, first and foremost, with the legislature, and they're the ones to deal with this, so I think he's interested in seeing if the legislature would like another opportunity to deal with this," GAB lawyer Patrick Kelly said.
Some who are challenging these redistricting maps say they diffuse Latino and African American voting blocks. "I think it's a very good decision on the part of the judges, because they are essentially expressing very deep concerns about the process by which the map was developed," Christine Neumann-Ortiz with Voces de la Frontera - one of the groups suing over the redistricting maps said.
At the state Capitol in Madison, the Governor's office had no comment. The state Senate and Assembly were in session Tuesday on other issues, and Republican leadership was not available for comment.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald previously told FOX6 that Republicans had done the same thing Democrats have done in the past when drawing the maps. He said secrecy was necessary as a practical matter, simply to get the maps drawn. "If you think about the task of bringing 19 senators into a room and everybody draws their own map, it's impossible. Everyone would look at their own community and their own district lines and say, 'there's no way we're ever going to get those to match up,'" Fitzgerald said.
Democrats say they're pleased with another possible shot at remapping voter districts that will last the next 10 years. "The court does not want to get involved in the legislative process. They want us to solve our problems. They want us to find out and work out where solutions are," Rep. Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie) said.