February 9, 2016

Few surprises in redistricting documents

Democrats have received legal documents that show politics did play a role in how new legislative districts were drawn. Although, one political expert says there are few surprises contained in the information released so far.

The documents from the law firm that drew the maps for Republicans were handed over to Senator Mark Miller (D-Monona) after Democrats regained a majority in the chamber. They include several messages from GOP lawmakers talking about the political make-up of districts and possible maps that could give members the edge in future elections.

While it may look bad for the GOP, UW-Madison political scientist Barry Burden says the impact is likely limited. Unless more documents unearth something new, Burden says it’s more of an “asterisk on the end of an unfortunate and fairly contentious process.”

A federal court case already upheld the majority of the new maps, with the exception of ordering two Milwaukee-area districts to be redrawn because of how they divided up minority voting populations. Burden says it may have been a “brazen, partisan effort,” but the maps met legal standards and were in compliance with the population, geographical, and minority representation requirements needed to keep them in place for the next decade.

Burden says politics has always played a role in redistricting. The main change last year was that one party controlled both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office at the time, which allowed Republicans to keep the process closely guarded. The court did criticize the majority party for keeping the process so secretive, but noted there was nothing illegal about how the maps were drawn.

The new districts will be used for the first time in the upcoming August 14th primary.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:24)

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