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New district election maps tossed by federal judges

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Redistricting graphic
Redistricting graphic

MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - A federal court said Thursday that Wisconsin legislative Republicans violated the Voting Rights Act with part of their state redistricting plan.

A three-judge panel said two Assembly districts in Milwaukee were drawn in a way that unfairly weakened the voting rights of Hispanic residents. And the court told lawmakers to re-draw those districts – while not touching the other 97 Assembly districts and all 33 Senate districts that the GOP re-drew last year.

The order came as part of a federal redistricting lawsuit filed by Milwaukee’s Voces de la Frontera and a group of 14 Democrats. They said the new districts diluted the Hispanic populations in each district, making it less likely that at least one Latino would be elected from those areas. And the Democrats said over 300,000 voters were needlessly moved into districts in which they have to wait six years to vote for a senator instead of the normal four years.

The ruling did not address that second argument. And there was no word on whether any of the plaintiffs would appeal. If so, the case would go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court – and justices could not refuse to hear it.

The three-judge panel affirmed most of the new districts while criticizing the way they were drawn up. The judges said, “Every effort was made to keep this work out of the public eye – and most particularly, out of the eye of the Democrats.” The court also said the GOP invited helpers of, “selected outsiders” that included business lobbyists.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Peter Barca said the judges have given the Legislature another chance to make redistricting right, and he hoped it would be in a, “transparent, open fashion that respects the citizens of Wisconsin and our communities.” 

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