Calling it a “shameful attempt to hide the redistricting process from public scrutiny,” a panel of three federal judges on Thursday ordered Republicans to release a series of emails and memos as part of a lawsuit over how the new maps were drawn.
Republicans argued the documents were protected by attorney-client privilege. However, judges said the discussions were more about political strategy and are therefore not covered.
In the opinion, judges wrote “the Legislature made a conscious choice to involve private lawyers in what gives every appearance of an attempt — albeit poorly disguised — to cloak the private machinations of Wisconsin’s Republican legislators in the shroud of attorney-client privilege. What could have — indeed should have — been accomplished publicly instead took place in private.”
The documents detail a series of communications between the law firm hired to draw the maps and legislative staff working on the project. They largely discuss efforts to build support for the proposal, including discussions with community leaders in districts that have large Hispanic populations.
The release of the emails comes just days before a federal trial on the maps is set to begin. Democrats claim the new district lines, which the state is required to redraw after the Census every 10 years, treat minorities unfairly and relocate too many voters to new districts.