UPDATE: Wisconsin Redistricting Case

UPDATED: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 --- 8:40 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Newly released documents show Republican legislative leaders were looking at ways to increase the number of safe GOP districts and to protect conservative incumbents while redrawing political boundaries.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports Wednesday that emails and other documents in the legal file turned over to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller shows Republicans were concerned about the political makeup of new districts when drawing them last year.

In one email, Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa suggests keeping parts of her district that are Republican and jettisoning those that are more Democratic.

Republican Sen. Scott Fitzgerald who was in charge during the redistrict process says political advantage was not the goal, but he never said consideration wasn't given to incumbents.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj

Copyright 2012: Associated Press
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UPDATED: Monday, June 18, 2012 --- 12:10 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin's attorney general has dropped an appeal over a decision dealing with the state's legislative boundaries. He also agreed to pay the plaintiffs more than $185,000.

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen had appealed the decision in April, but a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report says he reversed course Monday.

As part of the reversal, the state Department of Justice will pay $185,500 to Voces de la Frontera. The immigrants-rights group prevailed in its challenge of newly drawn boundaries between two Assembly districts in Milwaukee.

That payment will bring the total taxpayer costs for the maps to over $1.5 million, but that number could still rise. A separate group of Democrats that also sued over the maps is also asking that its attorney fees be covered. That request is pending.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

AP-WF-06-18-12 1659GMT

Copyright 2012: Associated Press

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UPDATED: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 --- 7:15p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The two sides in a lawsuit over two Milwaukee voting districts have failed to agree on a new set of election maps that would comply with a recent federal court order.

The disagreement stems from new election boundaries, which are redrawn every 10 years to account for population growth and shifts. The latest maps were drawn by Republican lawmakers and signed into law last year.

Democrats and a Latino-rights group sued the state elections board. The plaintiffs said the maps split up a Hispanic district in Milwaukee, making it harder for residents to elect Latino officials.

Federal judges ruled that the two sides should collaborate to redraw the boundary. The parties said Tuesday they couldn't reach agreement, and are submitting their individual suggestions for the court to review.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.
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UPDATED: Friday, February 24, 2012 --- 8:20p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Testimony has wrapped up in a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's new election maps, after witnesses from both sides spent hours discussing whether the maps weakened or strengthened the voting power of Hispanics.

Closing arguments are expected later Friday night.

The case centers on maps that are redrawn every 10 years to ensure that political districts across the state encompass about the same number of voters. Democrats and an immigrant-rights group are challenging the Republican-drawn maps.

Demographic expert Peter Morrison testified that the maps are favorable to Hispanics in the long-term because there are a disproportionate number of Hispanic children in the two contested areas in Milwaukee. But he acknowledged those districts wouldn't reach Hispanic majorities until at least 2018.

University of Wisconsin political scientist Kenneth Mayer says the maps move far more people than necessary.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, February 24, 2012 --- 9:50 a.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Lawyers in a federal case over the legality of Wisconsin's election maps have dropped several of their claims, leaving two issues on the table.

The trial entered its second and final day Friday in Milwaukee. Democrats and an immigrant-rights group are suing to prevent the state elections board from conducting elections based on the new maps.

The plaintiffs dropped several allegations, including a claim that Assembly districts had been drawn inappropriately in predominantly black neighborhoods.

A panel of three judges is considering two remaining issues. One is whether the maps deprived Latinos of their constitutional rights, and the other is whether some 300,000 Wisconsin voters were needlessly moved into and out of districts, delaying when they could vote in a Senate election.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, February 24, 2012 --- 6:30 a.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A federal trial evaluating whether the state's latest election maps are constitutional enters its second and final day in Milwaukee.

The three-judge panel heard Thursday from an expert witness who argued that the maps break up certain blocs of racial minorities, weakening their voting power.

The judges will hear more arguments Friday about whether the maps were drawn in compliance with legal guidelines. The presiding judge has said the case will go as late as needed, even if it goes into Saturday morning.

The trial pits the state elections board against Democrats who argue that the maps should be thrown out.

An attorney for the elections board said Thursday the maps were already passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor last year, meaning they should be presumed constitutional.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Thursday, February 23, 2012 --- 1:50 p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- An expert witness in a federal trial over the constitutionality of Wisconsin's election maps says they were drawn in ways that "significantly diminished" the voting power of Milwaukee's Latino community.

Kenneth Mayer teaches political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He says the 2011 maps shifted the boundaries of two Milwaukee Assembly districts in ways that divided blocs of Latino voters. He says the maps also introduced non-Latino residents into the district who were more likely than Latinos to vote. A Latino group says the maps would make it harder for their community to elect candidates sympathetic to their causes.

Democrats are suing to keep the new Republican-friendly maps from being implemented. The district boundaries are adjusted every 10 years to reflect updated U.S. Census numbers.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Thursday, February 23, 2012 --- 6:35 a.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- After two days of delays, a federal trial is set to begin in Milwaukee in a case involving the state's latest election maps.

The maps show which voters are in which voting districts. The district boundaries are adjusted every 10 years to reflect updated U.S. Census numbers.

Republican lawmakers drew up the latest maps in strict secrecy last year and passed them in a GOP-led Legislature.

Democrats have challenged the GOP-friendly maps for shifting the districts for hundreds of thousands of voters without a good reason. An immigrant-rights group has also sued, alleging that the boundaries divide Latino blocs, weakening their voting power.

They're suing the state Government Accountability Board to prevent it from implementing the new maps.

The trial starts Thursday morning. It's expected to wrap up late Friday.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 --- 4:53p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- After a two-day delay, a federal trial in a case involving the state's new voter maps is now set to begin Thursday.

The case deals with redistricting. That's the process in which, once a decade, lawmakers modify that maps that determine how boundary lines are drawn between voting districts.

GOP lawmakers approved maps last year that have been signed into law. However, Democrats and a Latino group sued, alleging the maps divided certain blocs of voters and thereby weakened their voting power.

The judges twice tried to have lawyers in the case appeal to lawmakers to voluntarily revisit the issue. A court clerk said Wednesday the latest attempt failed, and now both sides will prepare for a trial expected to last from Thursday morning to late Friday evening.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 22, 2012 --- 11:34 a.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Federal judges in a case involving Wisconsin's new election maps want attorneys for both sides to make one final request of lawmakers to draw new boundaries.

Lawmakers already said Tuesday they didn't think they could revisit the issue because state law only allows the maps to be drawn once every 10 years, after new U.S. Census numbers come out.

But the judges disagreed Wednesday, saying the law allows the maps to be modified at any point during the first two-year legislative session following the Census release. In this case, that legislative session is still ongoing.

The attorneys have until 2 p.m. Wednesday to report back. If they say lawmakers won't revisit the issue, a trial challenging the validity of the current maps will begin Thursday and likely end late Friday.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 22, 2012 --- 10:05 a.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Federal judges in Milwaukee are reconvening in a case over whether the state's new election maps are constitutional.

The case was delayed Tuesday as lawyers prepared arguments about the degree to which one particular witness might have to testify. Jim Troupis helped produce the maps for Republican lawmakers, and has said much of his involvement is protected by attorney-client privilege.

The three-judge panel is expected to make a decision Wednesday.

Democrats and an immigrant-rights group want the maps thrown out and redone.

However, a separate issue was raised Tuesday over whether state law even allows the issue to be revisited. Republican lawmakers say the law only allows new maps to be drawn once every 10 years, but plaintiffs' attorneys say they just have to be completed in the first legislative session, which is still ongoing.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 --- 7:00p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A trial to determine whether the state's new election maps are constitutional has been delayed by a number of issues, including an assertion by lawmakers that the state Constitution prevents them from making changes to the maps approved last year.

A panel of three federal judges asked both sides Tuesday to spend the day determining whether lawmakers would consider drawing new maps to address concerns of Democrats and an immigrant-rights group.

Attorney Daniel Kelly said the state Constitution only allows lawmakers to draw new voter lines once every 10 years, and the issue can't be revisited until the next U.S. Census numbers are out.

An attorney for the plaintiffs disagreed, saying state law only requires that new voter maps be completed in the first legislative session. He says this first legislative session hasn't ended.

That matter is only a secondary issue for now. The judges will decide Wednesday whether Jim Troupis, an attorney for lawmakers, can be deposed. Troupis' name surfaced in emails linked to the voter-map issue, but he has said his communications are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Tuesday, February 21, 2012 --- 10:10 a.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Federal judges in Milwaukee have postponed for at least one day a trial that would evaluate whether the latest voting-district maps are constitutional.

Democrats and an immigrant-rights group have sued the state Government Accountability Board to prevent the board from conducting elections based on the new maps.

The judges on Tuesday asked lawyers for both sides to spend the day coordinating with key lawmakers over the maps. The judges say redistricting is the responsibility of a state Legislature and should be handled by lawmakers as much as possible, not by judges.

Both sides have to report back to the court by Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. If they say lawmakers have agreed to revisit the issue, the trial will be postponed until next month. If lawmakers disagree, the trial resumes Wednesday morning.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2012 --- 6:25 a.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Opening arguments are set to begin in Milwaukee in a federal case that could affect potential recall elections in Wisconsin.

The case involves redistricting, where lawmakers draw new maps for voting districts every 10 years to account for population changes.

The latest Wisconsin maps were drawn and approved last year by Republicans who control the Legislature.

But several Democrats and an immigrant-rights group have sued over the GOP-friendly maps. They say they're unconstitutional because they break up minority blocs, and also shift an unnecessarily large number of people from one district to another.

The plaintiffs are asking a three-judge panel to invalidate the maps. They want any potential recall elections held this year to be conducted based on the 2002 districts.

Opening arguments are set to begin Tuesday morning.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.


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