Republicans and Democrats are coming away from federal court ruling on redistricting with each side claiming victory. A three judge panel on Thursday rejected most challenges to the maps approved last summer, only ordering lawmakers to redraw the 8th and 9th Assembly Districts because of concerns about the Hispanic population on Milwaukee’s south side.
Republicans touted the decision as a vindication that their maps followed the law. Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says 99-percent of the map was ruled Constitutional, and the one item the judges brought up was something the GOP had “struggled with” during the redistricting process.
AUDIO: Sen. Fitzgerald (:13)
Democrats say comments from the judges are a sign the entire process should start over. In the decision, judges were highly critical of Republican lawmakers for drawing the maps in secret and for taking steps to exclude Democrats and the public from the process. Despite those comments, judges ruled problems with the maps were not significant enough to order widespread changes.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) says the court decision gives lawmakers an opportunity to take another look at redistricting. He says Democrats will push for changes beyond the 8th and 9th Districts, if the maps come back to the Legislature.
AUDIO: Rep. Barca (:08)
While Republicans held majorities in both chambers when the maps were approved last summer, no party has total control of the Senate now because of recalls and the recent resignation of GOP Senator Pam Galloway. The chamber now has a 16-16 split, making it unlikely a contentious partisan issue like redistricting could make it through the Senate easily.
Fitzgerald believes the judges were prepared for that issue. He says the court order makes it clear that, if lawmakers fail to reach an agreement, the court will be able to adjust the two districts on its own. He says a decision on the next step is being left to the Department of Justice, which is defending the state in the case.