The state’s top election officials announced that recall elections will not be held in the districts recently drawn by Republicans in the Legislature when they go into effect later this year and early next year.
The Government Accountability Board released a memo sent to the chief clerks of the Assembly and the Senate Wednesday announcing the board’s opinion that Senate recall elections likely to be held in congruence with a state wide recall of Gov. Scott Walker should be held in the senators’ current districts, GAB spokesperson Reid Magney said.
The chief clerks of the Legislature asked for the GAB’s clarification on whether Senate seats up for recall would be decided by constituents of the districts they currently represent or those in the districts of the newly drawn districts, Magney said.
This summer, the Legislature redrew the legislative district lines, fulfilling a 10-year requirement for the Legislature to do so, University of Wisconsin political science professor Charles Franklin said.
He said these district lines will be put in place for the Nov. 2012 elections and will be officially implemented on Jan. 1, 2013 when newly elected legislators take office.
Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, said Republican legislators drew the district lines to heavily favor their party in future elections. She said it was the worst gerrymandering in the state’s history.
As opposed to the current requirement for the Legislature to vote on newly drawn districts, Roys said she would support a system which would allow for more non-partisan redistricting.
Magney said the position taken by the GAB was that the special elections and recall elections held before Nov. 2012 should be held in the current districts, which is the GAB’s interpretation of the redistricting law created by the Legislature.
Members of the Senate and Assembly, Magney said, wanted to know when the new districts would be put in place to determine when they should begin addressing their new constituents with events such as town meetings and mailings.
Franklin said the recalls being planned against both Republican and Democratic senators in the state have created the need to clarify which districts would determine the recalled senators.
“We’ve never been down this road with recalls and redistricting at the same time,” Franklin said. “There’s no precedent for how you handle it.”
Franklin said the redistricting drawn in 2001 and implemented in 2002 was set by court order because the divided Legislature at the time could not agree on a redistricting plan.
The Republican Party’s current control of both the Legislature and governor’s office is largely responsible for the Legislature’s passage of new district lines this past summer, Franklin said, since the party had the power to draw and pass the district lines despite Democratic opposition.
As of now, courts in the state have not approved of the newly drawn district map, Roys said.
She said the GAB’s decision makes logical sense, since a recall cannot be held in a district which does not exist.
“[There is] really no way the GAB could reach another conclusion,” Roys said. “[Otherwise,] you would have people who would have no representative and others who would have multiple representatives.”