LETTER: Voters deserve better from representativesThree judges — two of whom were appointed by Republican presidents — on a federal court panel hearing a challenge to Wisconsin’s Republican-led redistricting harshly criticized the costly, secretive and “peculiarly furtive process” used by the GOP in drawing and defending the maps.
Three judges — two of whom were appointed by Republican presidents — on a federal court panel hearing a challenge to Wisconsin’s Republican-led redistricting harshly criticized the costly, secretive and “peculiarly furtive process” used by the GOP in drawing and defending the maps.
The lawsuit was resolved in February 2012, upholding most of the maps because courts have limited grounds to strike down redistricting. But the court sanctioned the GOP’s lawyers, ordering them to pay $17,500 for filing frivolous motions to keep redistricting-related documents secret. The court stated: “Quite frankly, the Legislature and the actions of its counsel give every appearance of flailing wildly in a desperate attempt to hide from both the court and the public the true nature of exactly what transpired in the redistricting process.”
The court retained jurisdiction over the case to determine how much was withheld and whether further sanctions were appropriate.
Court filings in April showed hundreds of thousands of GOP redistricting-related documents were deleted in defiance of court orders to turn over all documents. On at least two occasions, someone using the login credentials for Tad Ottman and Adam Foltz, staffers of then-Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, logged on to GOP computers and, through “inadvertence or ineptitude, or otherwise,” deleted files just before the deadline to turn documents over to the other side. Plaintiffs spent over $100,000 conducting computer analyses and sought to have the legislature or its counsel cover further costs to recover and reconstruct deleted files. The court denied the motion. In May, the parties announced reaching a settlement. On June 3, the court issued its final ruling in which it expressed concern over the rancor brought on by the GOP’s secretive actions in this round of redistricting.
Iowa has earned praise for its redistricting process. Its nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency draws both congressional and state legislative lines using clear criteria, such as keeping county lines intact. The legislature then accepts or rejects the plan without amendment.
This independent process does not use political data, protect incumbents or seek partisan gain. Alternatives to Iowa’s redistricting process include forms of proportional voting in a “super district” that puts voters in control of their representation rather than those drawing winner-take-all election lines.
Contact Republican leaders Scott Fitzgerald, Mike Ellis, Robin Vos and Scott Suder to demand implementation of a nonpartisan, independent, transparent and less expensive redistricting process.
As the federal court stated in its June 3 ruling: “We cannot help but conclude that the people of Wisconsin deserve better in the next round of redistricting after the 2020 census.”
Sources: “Federal Court Criticizes Wisconsin Republicans for ‘Peculiarly Furtive’ Redistricting, Closes Case,” Brendan Fischer, PR Watch, 6-4-2013. “Iowa’s Laudable Redistricting Process - and the Super District Alternative,” Jais Mehaji, FairVote.org, 6-27-2011.