Newly released documents from Republicans may prove beneficial to the Democrats’ case in tomorrow’s redistricting trial and could also help gain support for legislation to reform the process in the future.
As the result of a federal court order, Republican lawyers publicly released a number of documents, including pledges signed by 75 state senators and representatives to keep discussions pertaining to redistricting plans secret from the public. The documents also showed attorneys, GOP aides and witnesses coordinating testimony.
Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said the court was very clear they wanted documents turned over to the plaintiffs while attorneys for the Republicans have continually attempted to block these requests.
“The documents will be used as evidence that the Republicans were secretly putting together this plan,” he said.
While Risser would not comment on the potential effect the new evidence could have on the ongoing trial, he said the plaintiffs will have more documents they can introduce into evidence.
However, even if the court could come forward and say the Republicans have done things wrong, it would not necessarily void the Republican redistricting plans, he said.
There was also a number of emails discussing strategy for dealing with controversy surrounding the new district maps.
Risser said the redistricting plans were bound to lead to some disenfranchisement, and that it is up to the court to decide whether there is a significant enough disenfranchisement to redraw the redistricting plans.
Andrew Welhouse, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, would not comment on the upcoming trial.
Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, are already looking past Tuesday’s trial and forward to the 2021 redistricting process.
The senators sent out an email to other legislators Friday looking for co-sponsors for an amendment to the constitution that would relieve the Legislature of redistricting power.
“We are circulating this constitutional amendment to take redistricting duties out of the hand of the Legislature and put it in the hands of an Independent Redistricting Commission, with ratification by the voters of Wisconsin,” Cullen and Schultz said in the email.
According to Cullen and Schultz, the commission would consist of one member appointed by the Senate Majority Leader, one by the Senate Minority Leader, one by the Speaker of the Assembly, one by the Assembly Minority Leader and one by the Government Accountability Board.
Cullen and Schultz had two guiding principles for the commission. One would be to make sure districts are compact as possible, while keeping municipalities and counties whole.
They said the other goal of the commission is to make districts as competitive as possible.
Cullen and Schultz cited a 70 percent turnover in membership of the Legislature and said they believe it is important to start the process of amending the constitution now, as nobody knows what the state Legislature will look like in 2021.
“We can take political opportunism out of the equation and move to a new, fair system of redistricting,” the senators said.