• WisPolitics

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

 2:35 PM 

PPP survey finds Baldwin-Thompson a toss up

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin and former Gov. Tommy Thompson are about even in a new poll on the U.S. Senate race from the Dem firm Public Policy.

The poll found 46 percent of those surveyed backed Baldwin, compared to 45 percent who supported Thompson.

It also found she led former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann 47-41 and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald 47-39.

In all three matchups, Baldwin fared better than she did in the last PPP survey in the race conducted in October.

The poll also found Thompson has the highest name ID of the four candidates with only 16 percent who have no opinion of him. Forty-one percent view him favorably, while 42 percent had an unfavorable opinion of him.

Baldwin's numbers were split at 31-31 with 38 percent unsure about her.

The poll also surveyed GOP voters on the upcoming primary, finding 47 percent of self-identified Republican voters would prefer someone more conservative than Thompson as their nominee. But he leads a three-way matchup 39-22-22 over Fitzgerald and Neummann and tops each of them head-to-head by at least nine points.

The automated phone survey of 900 voters was conducted Thursday through Sunday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. It included an oversample of 556 usual GOP primary voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent points for that sample.

A survey released yesterday by Rasmussen Reports found Thompson leading Baldwin 50-36, Neumann up 9 points and Fitzgerald about even with the congresswoman.

-- By Staff


 1:41 PM 

Tommy launches first TV ad of U.S. Senate campaign

Tommy Thompson has released the first television ad of his U.S. Senate campaign, touting his record as governor and arguing he'll do the same in Washington, D.C.

The ad, entitled "Restore America," has Thompson in a local diner highlighting his record of job creation and tax-cutting measures during his terms as guv. He then says he'll fight to repeal "Obamacare" and "stop Washington from busting the budget."

Thompson also previously released a radio ad that attacked President Barack Obama and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin for what was characterized as their initial positions on mandatory birth control coverage.

See the ad:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P01QQIK5hok

-- By Staff


 1:36 PM 

GAB expects to seek more time to review recall petitions

The GAB expects to request additional time to review the recall petitions, according to a letter sent to lawmakers requesting additional money to complete the check.

In the letter, GAB Director Kevin Kennedy writes the additional time is needed to complete a check of Gov. Scott Walker's recall petitions for duplicate signatures and to ensure if any recall elections are ordered, they "are consolidated and do not conflict with existing election events or holidays."

Agency spokesman Reid Magney said it was unclear how much additional time the GAB would ask a Dane County judge to grant. It has already received an extension of 30 days.

Magney said the board meets March 12 to discuss the recall petitions filed against four GOP state senators, and the question will likely be settled then.

In the letter, the GAB seeks an additional $404,500 to cover its costs for reviewing the petitions.

-- By Staff


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

 3:19 PM 

Rasmussen: Thompson, Neumann lead Baldwin

A new poll from Rasmussen Reports finds Republicans Tommy Thompson and Mark Neumann leading Dem U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin for U.S. Senate, while she's about even with Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald.

The survey found Thompson leading Baldwin 50-36 percent with 4 percent backing another candidate and the rest undecided. Neumann led 46-37 with 4 percent backing another candidate and the rest undecided, while 41 percent favored Fitzgerald and 40 percent backed Baldwin in that match up.

In October, Rasmussen found Thompson up on Baldwin 49-42, Baldwin leading Neumann 44-43 and Baldwin leading Fitzgerald 46-39.

The latest survey of 500 likely voters was conducted Monday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Dems have attacked the Rasmussen polls a biased toward Republicans.

-- By Staff


 12:45 PM 

Poll: Voters evenly split on recalling Walker, but he's neck-and-neck with possible Dem challengers

Those surveyed in a new poll are evenly split over recalling Gov. Scott Walker, while he is neck-and-neck with all the possible Dem challenges polled, even though many of them are largely unknown.

The survey from the Dem firm Public Policy Polling found Walker’s approval rating was 47 percent among those polled with 52 percent disapproving. Respondents were split 49-49 over whether her should be recalled.

In hypothetical head-to-head matchups, Walker trailed Dems Tom Barrett and Kathleen Falk, though the difference was within the margin of error. Barrett led 49-46 with a favorability split for the Milwaukee mayor of 41-33, while Falk led 48-47 with a favorability spread of 31-42.

Walker led the other Dems paired against him, though those leads were also within the poll’s margin of error. Walker was up on Dave Obey 47-45 even though 43 percent of voters didn’t know enough about Obey to have an opinion of him; 47-44 on Jon Erpenbach with 59 percent unsure about the Dem state senator; 48-46 on Peter Barca with 57 percent not knowing the Assembly minority leader; 46-45 on Ron Kind with 57 percent unsure of the western Wisconsin congressman; 46-45 on Doug La Follette with 49 percent of voters not knowing the secretary of state; and 46-44 on Kathleen Vinehout with 60 percent saying they didn’t know enough about the western Wisconsin state senator to have an opinion of her.

Former Dem U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold has ruled out a run. But he led Walker 52-45 in the survey.

Only Falk and Vinehout have officially announced their campaigns, while LaFollette filed papers last week as he gauges a run. But in a field including those three and Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor was backed by 45 percent of the 425 self-identified Dems who were surveyed, while 18 percent preferred Falk, 14 percent LaFollette and 6 percent Vinehout, leaving 17 percent undecided.

With Barrett pulled out of the mix, Falk led with 41 percent, LaFollette 23, Vinehout 13 and 22 percent undecided.

The automated phone survey of 900 Wisconsin voters was conducted Thursday through Sunday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.27 percentage points. PPP said it was not paid for by any campaign or political organization.

-- By Staff


 10:24 AM 

Tea Party groups count 819,233 on Walker recall petitions

Tea Party groups that combined to form the "Verify the Recall" effort have counted 819,233 unique signature lines on the Walker recall petitions, a spokesman said, short of the 1 million recall organizers said they turned in.

A Dem Party spokesman questioned the validity of the groups' efforts.

Though Gov. Scott Walker declined to challenge any of the signatures filed against him, his campaign has asked the GAB to consider anything collected by the Verify the Recall effort as a challenge to the petitions. The GAB has noted it cannot accept third-party challenges to recall petitions; only officeholders are allowed to file those.

Larry Gamble, a spokesman with the GrandSons of Liberty that's part of the Verify the Recall effort, said the group has so far identified some 55,000 signatures that are incomplete or illegible, outside the required time frame, from out of state or duplicates. It has also flagged an additional 228,940 for further review.

Gamble said the 228,940 flagged for further review include signatures that have questionable names, but a legitimate address.

Gamble added the group hoped to complete its review in time for the GAB to review its findings before meeting in mid-March to decide whether to certify the recall elections.

“They’ve said that while we can’t file a challenge, they’re interested in seeing what we can provide,” Gamble said. “We want to be able to give our information to them in a manner that is useful for them.”

Dem Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski questioned the validity of the Verify the Vote review of the petitions.

“Time and again, we've seen claims made by Scott Walker and his Tea Party extremists that do not stand up to the most basic scrutiny,” he said. “Their entire effort is informed by bad faith.”

-- By Staff


Monday, February 27, 2012

 5:22 PM 

Dem Party unveils TV ad slamming Walker

The state Dem Party Monday announced a new TV ad knocking the guv on “Walkergate.”

It's the first TV buy by anti-Walker forces since late last year. Since then Walker and allies have put millions on ads on the airwaves.

The 30-second spot, titled "Walkergate," includes footage of newscasters both during the 1970s Watergate scandal and discussing the ongoing John Doe probe tied to former Walker aides in Milwaukee County.

"Scott Walker has given a blizzard of conflicting and contradictory explanations about what he knew and when he knew it," Tate said in a conference call with reporters this morning.

Tate said the ad would be a rolling buy in multiple state TV markets, saying the party believes voters outside Madison and Milwaukee may not be as aware of the Milwaukee County investigation.

"I think it's important people know about that as we are about to have an election," Tate said.

The Walker campaign responded that the governor "immediately addressed any issues of misconduct when brought to his attention."

"The character assassination being conducted by Madison Democrats and big-government union bosses in this ad shows they are grasping at straws to deflect from the fact that Governor Walker’s reforms have laid the foundation for a more successful Wisconsin," the campaign said.

-- By Staff


 12:34 PM 

Walker wants third-party review of recall petitions considered

Gov. Scott Walker, declining to file a challenge himself, wants the GAB to consider a review by two Tea Party groups to determine if recall signatures filed against him are valid.

But a GAB spokesman said the agency is not allowed to consider third-party challenges under state law.

In Walker's filing, now posted at the GAB site, the guv restates his position that he was not given enough time to review the signatures filed against him and says his campaign only got through 350,000.

He demands the GAB to identify and strike duplicate and fictitious names, as well as those where the agency cannot determine if the signer is a qualified elector.

The GAB has said it would strike duplicate and fictitious names. But state law does not require it to check if someone is a qualified elector, and residents do not have to be registered to vote to sign a recall petition.

The guv also points out the groups Wisconsin GrandSons of Liberty and We the People Republic have been working on their own review of the recall petitions, an effort dubbed "Verify the Recall."

Walker says the GAB has been referring people who have concerns their names were improperly included in the petitions to the Verify the Recall effort even though state law prohibits the campaign from coordinating with such groups. Thus, the brief argues, anything found by the Verify the Recall effort should count as a challenge to the petitions.

GAB spokesman Reid Magney said the agency has been referring people who have concerns to the state GOP, which has been helping Walker's campaign review the petitions and is allowed to do so under state law. It also has encouraged them to contact the officeholder targeted for recall if they have concerns as well as mentioning the Verify the Recall effort.

But it cannot accept a challenge filed by a third-party group. State law only allows the targeted officeholder to challenge signatures on a recall petition.

"If we receive documentation from Verify the Recall, we will certainly look at it for information to improve the process," Magney said. "We will look at it for any potential fraud they uncover. But we cannot consider it as a challenge under state law."

-- By JR Ross


 9:08 AM 

Citing time crunch, Walker camp won't file challenges to recall signatures

Gov. Scott Walker will not challenge any of the signatures filed against him because his campaign did not have enough time to review the more than 150,000 pages filed seeking his recall, a spokeswoman said.

Walker faced a deadline today to file challenges after a Dane County judge granted him a 20-day extension beyond the 10 days allotted under state law. Walker also sought an additional two weeks but was turned down.

"We faced an impossible timeline," said Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews.

Matthews declined comment when asked if the campaign would appeal the ruling denying additional time beyond the original extension.

She said the campaign will rely on the GAB to strike fraudulent signatures instead of filing any challenges.

Matthews said recall organizers were given 60 days to collect signatures, twice the time the campaign was given to review them.

"It obviously takes more time to verify signatures than it does to collect them," she said.

The campaign planned to release a statement this afternoon about its decision.

State Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate responded this morning that the Walker campaign had gathered millions of dollars and thousands of volunteers to look over the signatures in a timeframe already three times longer than the window allowed under state law.

"It's bordering on the absurd," Tate said of the campaign's statement in a conference call with reporters. He added that the campaign's decision reflects that "they can't give us one example of a fraudulent signature."


Friday, February 24, 2012

 9:23 PM 

Both sides deliver closing arguments in redistricting suit

The lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the redistricting plan that will guide elections for a decade entered its final phase shortly after 7 p.m.

The two issues to be decided by the three-judge panel in federal court: Was the voting power Hispanic community of Milwaukee's south side diluted when it was divided among two districts, each with a largely white community added? Did the plan unnecessarily shift too many people in and out of other districts, depriving some 300,000 of a chance to vote for a state senator for six years?

The court has also said it will address which maps should be used in the expected recall elections this summer, the ones in place for a decade or the ones Republican lawmakers drew last year.

Peter Earle, a lawyer representing the civil rights group Voces de la Frontera, said the lawsuit would never have been filed if the adoption of the plan had been open and transparent -- a criticism that Judge J.P. Stadtmueller repeatedly leveled during the four-day trial, even as he and the other judges twice offered the Legislature time to redo the map to address the concerns.

"It was initiated in secret, hidden from the public," said Earle. "They deprived the public of the ability to scrutinize the plan. They deprived the community of the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way."

Earle contrasted the Legislature's method with Milwaukee's redrawing of ward maps. The city held public meetings and solicited input.

"If something was wrong, it could be corrected," he said.

Noting that the redistricting work was done in the offices of a private law firm, Earle said "they privatized the redistricting process."

Doug Poland, a lawyer who represents other plaintiffs, said the plan was fatally flawed. Noting the movements of massive numbers of residents from one district to another, Poland said the movement of people destroyed communities of interest.

"The process, like the product, defies a rational explanation," Poland said.

While the law gives the presumption of validity to the law and the process uses, Poland charged "given the lack of transparency, Act 43 (the redistricting law) should not be given any presumption of validity."

Poland noted that the Government Accountability Board has said the old districts will be used for any recall elections, but the defense has refused to sign an agreement accepting that.

Jim Olson, a Madison lawyer representing the Democratic members of Congress,argued that there was a massive redrawing of the 3rd and 7th congressional districts resulting in 190,000 people being moved unnecessarily. Wisconsin Rapids and Marshfield had been in the 7th CD for more than 75 years but moved to the 3rd, along with Portage County. There are many issues -- air and water quality, for example -- that are shared with others in the 7th CD but not the 3rd, he said.

Olson cited several other similar examples, adding "for three-fourths of the state almost nothing had to be done to get back to equal population" among the districts. He asked that it be thrown out because it did not comply with what is necessary for effective representation in Congress.

Tom Shriner, representing the Republican Congressional delegation, said the law is valid because the plaintiffs did not prove their case.

Shriner noted that the other side argued that the 3rd, 7th and 8th CDs are being "deprived of their fair and effective representation." No proof was submitted that that was not the case. A constitutional basis needs to be established for the map to be found invalid.

The decision was "a political act engaged in by politicians," Shriner said. The Wisconsin congressional representatives worked out the plan.

The court record, Shriner said, show that everyone got something they wanted Rep. Sean Duffy, a Republican, got a more GOP district and Rep. Ron Kind, a Democrat, got more Democratic voters.

"It's not a violation of the Constitution," he said. "It's not even bad public policy."

Dan Kelly, the lead lawyer representing the plan, said the plaintiffs are putting on two cases, the first addressing legal issues but "the second addresses nothing but political questions."

After a federal court drew the map in 2002, residents of one Assembly district elected a Hispanic candidate and continued to do so over the following decade.

Now, the Hispanic community will still be able to elect the candidate of it choice. He noted that the winner of the Democratic primary will win the election and other minorities have supported Hispanic candidates.

"The non-minority population that has moved into the district is largely Republican and will not be voting in a Democratic primary," he argued.

Kelly said that whether Hispanic voters cast their ballots based on ethnicity or for other reasons was a flip of the coin based on voting records. He also dismissed the notion that "high turnout white voters will frustrate the Hispanic majority" in the new district.

Kelly cited the judicial election of Pedro Colon over Christopher Lipscomb in 2010 to back up his case.

Kelly said the Hispanic who has the most at stake in the redistricting is state Rep. Jocasta Zamarripa, but she did not testify against the plan and has said she's fine with it.

Earle, who represented Voces de la Frontera, later said Kelly's remarks about Zamarripa was "a distortion of the truth" and that the remarks were taken out of context.

As part of his closing arguments, Kelly said the districts have equal population distribution.

"The balance of the plaintiff's case presents their misunderstanding of the traditional redistricting principles," Kelly said.

The principles only come into play if a legal determination has been made that the plan violates the law, he said.

The fact that some residents won't get to vote for a state senator for six years, Kelly said, "that's not nothing, but it's not unconstitutional." Besides, some voted in recall elections last summer, so they will get to vote for a state senator again after three years.

Kelly also said the court does not have jurisdiction to decide whether recall elections expected to be held this year will be done under the 2002 district map or the new one.

Finally, Kelly said "it's unfair that a small group of people" get to come to court in an attempt to reverse valid legislation.

The judges are expected to issue a written decision in two weeks. Either side can appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court where it must be reviewed.

-- By Marie Rohde


 6:43 PM 

Defense witness says 8th SD changes would delay 2nd Hispanic majority district

While the 8th Senate District is 23 percent non-Hispanic white and a large share of the rest are African-Americans and members of other minority groups, it is unlikely they could thwart the Hispanic community from electing their candidate of choice, said Bernard Grofman, an expert witness for the defense in the redistricting dispute.

The district could have been drawn in such a way the the Hispanics in the 8th District would have a greater majority but Grofman said that would be a bad idea. "It delays the time at which there will be a second Hispanic majority district," he said.

"There is no dispute that Hispanics on their own cannot control with a guarantee the district regardless of how anyone else votes," Grofman said.

But based on previous history "this district has a realistic opportunity to have the candidate of their choice to be elected in 2012," he said.

Plaintiffs' lawyer Peter Earle pointed out that, contrary to Grofman's earlier testimony, the splitting of the Hispanic community into two aldermanic districts did not split the business district as the redistricting plan did with its Senate districts.

Another important factor: 2012 is a presidential election year. That means that the incentive for minorities to turn out is much higher than other years, Grofman said.

-- By Marie Rohde


 3:08 PM 

Defense witness says Hispanic candidate 'can and will' win 8th AD

Bernard Grofman, an expert witness for the defense with international credentials, testified that a Hispanic candidate in the newly reconfigured 8th Assembly District "can and will win" the election.

The seat is currently held by Jocasta Zamarripa, a Democrat.

"The Democratic primary in district eight is tantamount to winning the election," Grofman said.

Grofman's testimony was the last of the four expert witnesses who have offered conflicting testimony on the impact of the new maps on the ability of Hispanics on Milwaukee's south side to elect the candidate of their choice because the redrawn maps divided the community into two district.

Zamaripa's incumbency is a major asset, Grofman said, as it would be for any candidate, regardless of race.

Some of the plaintiffs, particularly the civil rights group Voces de la Frontera, are challenging the GOP-drafted redistricting plan based on their assumption that dividing the community would dilute voting rights of the minority community, a violation of federal law.

Grofman has written extensively on election law and redistricting across the U.S. and in a dozen countries. His work has been cited in U.S. Supreme Court redistricting cases, and he said he was a frequent consultant to the U.S. Justice Department over the past two decades. He said he has worked for more often for Republicans than Dems, but considers himself non-partisan as do others, he said.

-- By Marie Rohde


 1:10 PM 

Defense expert says Republicans met standards with maps

Ronald Gaddie, a professor of political science at Tulane University who has worked on redistricting plans, said the maps Republicans drew meet the required constitutional standards.

Gaddie testified that he was hired by Michael Best & Friedrich, a law firm that has represented the state GOP, to assist in the redistricting plan that was created by Wisconsin GOP legislators.

"The population deviations are very small," Gaddie said of the districts created by the redistricting. "That's the first principle."

The deviation was smaller than those in the 2002 plan, larger than in 1992 plan. Equalizing the population in the districts was key importance, he said.

The plan does not cause an unusual amount of delayed voting, he said. It also fared well compared to both other states and past Wisconsin redistricting efforts.

He said he looked at creating a Senate district that would have ensured that the Latino community would be able to elect the candidate of the community's choice but found that none could be guaranteed.

-- By Marie Rohde


 11:39 AM 

Defense begins in redistricting suit

The defense called Peter A. Morrison, a demographer with expertise in both redistricting and the measurement of minority presence in neighborhoods, who attacked the opinion of the plaintiff's expert that Latino voting rights were diluted under the new redistricting plan.

Plaintiff expert Kenneth Mayer used a short list of Hispanic surnames in his analysis that Morrison called "distorted," "erroneous" and could have been corrected by using a larger list of names. The actual number of Hispanics in two new districts would be far greater than Mayer said.

"It undermines all his conclusions," Morrison said.

In response to questions by Peter Earle, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Morrison acknowledged that the new Assembly district 8 could not achieve an effective voting majority until Nov. 2018; in Assembly district 9, an Hispanic majority was not envisioned until some time past 2020, he said.

Morrison is a private consultant who worked for the Rand Corp. and the University of Pennsylvania in the past.

Next up Ronald Gaddie, a political science professor at Tulane University who has wroked on redistricting.

-- By Marie Rohde


 10:59 AM 

Plaintiff's redistricting expert wraps up testimony

Kenneth Mayer, the UW redistricting expert called by the plaintiffs, finished his testimony this morning, saying "it should have been possible and was possible to move less people."

Dan Kelly, a lawyer supporting the plan, noted that Mayer, who was hired by the plaintiffs, did not draw a statewide map.

Kelly also noted that Mayer was involved in analyzing the 2002 redistricting maps and found that the version drawn by the Democrats was "marginally better" than that done by Republicans. Mayer also agreed that the Republican plan was better in that fewer people were disenfranchised by movement in and out of districts.

In 1992, a court-drawn map resulted in 550,000 voters who were disenfranchised by being moved to other districts and could not vote for state senators for six years, Kelly said in response to a question.

-- By Marie Rohde


 8:46 AM 

Lawyers agree to dismiss all but three issues in redistricting case

Lawyers in the redistricting case agreed that all but three issues would be dismissed and that testimony in the case would be concluded by 9:05 p.m. Friday.

The issues are whether the redistricting deprived the Hispanic community in Milwaukee of their constitutional rights; whether nearly 300,000 people were deprived of their voting rights because the new maps needlessly move too many people in and out of districts; and whether the court will decide if the 2002 map will apply to any recall elections or if the new maps will be used.

Kenneth Mayer, a UW Madison expert on redistricting, was the first witness called. Defense lawyer Dan Kelly continued to cross examine him. Three other expert witnesses are scheduled to testify.

The eight-hour deposition of Jim Troupis, the lawyer who was involved in drawing the map, has been submitted to the court and he will not testify.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

 7:36 PM 

GOP Senate candidates share views on Obama, differ in approach

Speaking during a forum, all three Republican U.S. Senate candidates slammed Barack Obama for his fiscal and foreign policy, former Gov. Tommy Thompson left the door open for working with Democrats and sharply dismissed his conservative critics.

In a forum hosted by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Both Neumann and Thompson were asked whether they agreed with a statement from current Sen. Ron Johnson that Obama isn't someone they could compromise with. Neumann said that Obama should not be compromised with if he continues to bring us to the "brink of financial disaster."

Thompson refused to make any direct statement on Johnson's comment, instead assailing Obama as a "failed president" who doesn't want to get involved in the "nitty gritty" of leading and policy.

However, just before that, Thompson said that he believed he could find people on the other side of the aisle that he could work with in the U.S. Senate.

"I have shown that you can work and develop good policy and make progress," Thompson said. "And there are good ideas coming from Democrats, there are good ideas coming from Republicans. What is so wrong with having candid discussion and developing good solutions?"

Neumann disagreed with Thompson's approach, saying until Democrats understand the need to cut spending and taxes, a strong conservative senator would be needed to reign in government. He once again touted his private sector experience and list of 92 line item cuts he would propose if elected to the Senate, saying that he would make sure they would not only balance the budget, but cut enough spending to provide tax breaks for Americans.

"We have so many stupid spending programs in this budget, but one of those programs all by itself if not going to solve that problem," Neumann said. "We need a comprehensive plan with multiple line item entries and that's what we've been putting out."

Neumann made clear that while his plans for Medicare and Social Security were forthcoming, it would not include raising the eligible age of Social Security.

Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, on the other hand, said that raising the eligible age for Medicare and Social Security has to be part of the discussion and said he supported Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare reform plan.

"So if you're honest with people and say, you know, the age 67 might have to go to 70 to make that solvent again, people are willing to do that, they understand that then," Fitzgerald said. "But to just push it off and not look? We know we're on a crash course that these things are going to become insolvent soon."

Fitzgerald also said that he thought his role in the collective bargaining battle would provide a fresh face for voters to turn to and thought it would give him an edge over his opponents.

See complete WisPolitics coverage of the forum


 6:29 PM 

UW redistricting expert cross examined

Kenneth Mayer, the UW redistricting expert, acknowledged under cross examination by a defense lawyer that there is not agreement on what should be the priority in creating a redistricting map other than adherence to the Voting Rights Act has to be close to the top.

Other issues -- like trying to keep a community in one district or the movement in and out of a district -- is more difficult to prioritize.

Dan Kelly, a lawyer for the defense, noted that often there are adjacent districts that are underpopulated and the effect of fixing one has a cascading impact on others. He noted that Mayer did not do a statewide redistricting map showing the least number of people to be moved.

"I am quite confident that I could have done it without moving as many people in and out," Mayer said.

Kelly countered: "But you haven't done it, have you? And you don't know what other redistricting principles would have to be sacrificed."

Mayer agreed that was correct.

Judge J.P. Stadtmueller said the trial would continue at 8:30 a.m. Friday and go as late as necessary to complete.

-- By Marie Rohde


 5:31 PM 

Mayer testifies on number of voters moved between districts

Kenneth Mayer, the UW Madison political science professor and redistricting expert, said the GOP redistricting plan moved 50 times more people into other districts than was needed statewide, far more in some districts.

Two extreme examples: the 60th AD was only underpopulated by 10 but a total of 35,237 were moved in or out. That's 719 times more than was necessary, he said. The 24th AD had 217 too many people yet nearly 60,000 were moved in to out, 275 times the number required.

Some Senate districts also saw far greater than neeedd shifts, he said. The 2nd SD was underpopulated by 226, but 99,000 moved in or out, 300 times as many were needed. The 17th was overpopulated by 58 but had movement of 39,173 -- 700 times that which was needed.

Senate districts 21 and 22 saw 18.24 times as many people moved as was necessary and most were from 21 to 22 or 22 to 21.

"This number is significantly higher than it could have been or should have been," Mayer said, particularly of the 21st and 22nd in Racine and Kenosha.

The "wild swings" in some districts did not adhere to traditional redistricting methods, he said.

Some movement is inevitable because there are not alternatives. For example, he noted that in one western Wisconsin district, some 20,000 had to be moved and would not be able to vote for a state senator for six years.

Statewide, 5.24 percent were disenfranchised by the movement among districts and that was not acceptable, Mayer testified, particularly in the districts like 21 and 22, where it was unnecessary for rebalancing the population.

Beloit and Marshfied were split unnecessarily, he said. Each had been in one and was split between two Assembly and Senate districts, he said. The result is that the attention of legislators is split and represents a smaller percentage of the legislator's constituency, he said.

The administrative costs of elections also was significantly escalated for Beloit and Marshfield, Mayer said.

Mayer also rebuffed the argument that some voters who will wait six years between regular Senate elections shouldn't be counted toward the 300,000 because they could vote in the recall elections last summer.

He said the recall elections were not the same as an regular election, Mayer said. Despite some $40 million being spent on the recall, the voter turnout was about 38 percent lower than the previous regular election.

-- By Marie Rohde


 3:59 PM 

Barca testifies Dems shut out of redistricting process

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, testified the redistricting in his area created "astonishingly" different districts.

Barca's new district combines the cities of Racine and Kenosha, communities that had been in separate districts for 100 years. He noted that the newspapers in the communities editorialized against the redistricting plan, and civic and local political groups railed against it.

In many areas of the new district, there are competing interests. The Racine-based Senate district previously in place has gone back and forth between the Democrats and the Republicans. No state senator from Racine could be elected to the new district because of the population distribution, he said.

Barca testified Republicans, who control both houses of the Legislature, would not give minority Dems money to work on redistricting. Previously, both parties had been given taxpayer money to hire outside attorneys to help draw maps.

"We never got to the point where we felt we had adequate resources to draw a map and advocate for it," Barca said, adding it would have cost more than $500,000 to draw a valid plan.

He said he was unaware at the time that the Republican maps were being drawn up in law offices outside the Capitol. He also said he did not know that Republican lawmakers had to take a secrecy oath regarding the plans, something he ssaid had never happened before.

Normally, the ward lines drawn by local government are the basis for the redistricting, but this time they the state map was done before those of the local communities, he said.

Dan Kelly, a lawyer for the defense, noted that the Democrats had access to a computer that could be used to draw redistricting map and he allowed Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee, to put it in his office.

"That was because, as you said, he likes to draw maps like other people like to go to the gym," Kelly said.

Under questioning by Kelly, Barca acknowledged that other members of the Democratic caucus were not happy with Kessler drawing a map. Barca said he told Kessler not to draw one.

Kessler, a former judge, has been involved professionally in drawing redistricting maps in Wisconsin and in other states. Barca said Kessler and all the other legislators were involved in the state budget adoption.

Rich Judge, Barca's chief of staff, wrote in an email to his boss that the Democratic caucus needed to keep its plans secret. Barca said there was a difference between keeping the caucus startegy secret and keeping the redistricting map from the public.

Questioning of Barca was to continue after a 15-minute break.

UPDATE: 4:44 p.m. -- Following the break, Kelly noted that Barca talked emails about the GOP plan being an "abuse of power," unconstitutional and not in the best interest of the public before it was introduced.

Barca said his comments were based on rumors and his fears of what the GOP was creating.

Judge J.P. Stadtmueller warned Kelly that some of his questioning of Barca was "wasting time."

"As you know this case will come to a close at 6 p.m. tomorrow," Stadtmueller said, adding that Kelly's team was "cutting itself very short" with regard to the witnesses it could call and the time it would have to make its arguments.

Myer, the UW redistricting expert was recalled to the stand.

-- By Marie Rohde


 3:07 PM 

Kennedy testifies he wasn't consulted on redistricting maps

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy testified that while his agency must implement election laws, he was not consulted on the redistricting law by the GOP leadership.

Kennedy also testified that he did not know when the Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren firm was hired to represent the GAB or who made the decision to hire the firm. The same firm served as consultants to the state Senate and Assembly "in anticipation of litigation," according to evidence introduced as part of his testimony.

Under questioning by Dan Kelly for the defense, Kennedy acknowledged that the hiring decision was up to the attorney general's office with the consent of the governor, both Republicans.

Under questioning by Doug Poland, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, he acknowledged that the upcoming recall elections of four Republican senators would be conducted under the old redistricting lines, not the new plan, if the recall petitions are certified. There is a bill pending that would require the new boundary lines to be used in the recall, he said. Kelly said the defense was willing to stipulate that the old boundaries would be used in the recall elections. Judge J.P. Stadtmueller said the agreement should be put in writing.

Kennedy testified that there are conflicts between ward lines established at the county level and the state redistricting plan. He said he did know if all those had been resolved.

Resolution of that is important because candidates for the fall elections for the Assembly and the Senate can take out nomination papers on April and must file the nomination signatures by June 1.

-- By Marie Rohde


 1:07 PM 

Plaintiff witness says Assembly districts radically changed, hurting Latino voting power

Kenneth Mayer, a UW-Madison political science professor and expert witness on redistricting called by plaintiffs, testified that the 8th and 9th Assembly districts were "radically reconfigured" under the new plan in a way that "severely diminished" the Latino community's opportunity to elect a candidate of its choice.

Mayer noted that the old 8th District had the lowest voter turnout -- dating back to 1998 -- in the state. The significance: "it doesn't take much of a demographic change to create a situation where non-Latino white voters would overwhelm the (majority) Latino votes," he said.

He also presented statistics that he said shows that the voting patterns in the district are racially polarized with Latinos voting for Latino-surnamed candidates and whites voting for candidates without Latino surnames.

He also testified that previous redistricting did not move voters in and out of the Latino districts as significantly as the new map. The number of residents who remained in the district after redistricting in 2002 was 92 percent, Mayer testified. The recent redistricting retained only 55 percent, he continued.

Change in district lines was needed because the 8th district was underpopulated by about 2,800, he said.

Mayer drew a district for the Milwaukee South Side that he said would create a super majority for the Latino community that met all of the other criteria -- including being contiguous and compact.

He also said new voter ID law impacts those districts because minority and elderly populations are significantly less likely to possess identification that would allow them to cast their votes, he said. That would "significantly diminish" their opportunity to elect a candidate of choice for the Latino community.

The court took a one-hour break at 12:45 p.m. and planned to hear testimony unil at least 6 p.m.

-- By Marie Rohde


 11:19 AM 

First witnesses testify on impact of map on Latino community

The first three witnesses in the redistricting trial testified on the racial makeup of two south side Milwaukee Assembly districts and the impact of the new plan on the Latino community.

John Bartkowski, executive director of the 16th St.Community Health Center, and Christine Neumann-Ortiz, director of Voces de la Frontera, testified to the growing Latino population in the area and what they said was the hostility of the dwindling white community.

A larger part of the Latino community was also moved into the district represented by Dem Sen. Tim Carpenter.

"We have been very disappointed with (his) representation," Neumann-Ortiz said.

She said a delegation approached Carpenter after he opposed in-state tuition and driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. She said Carpenter said that 90 percent of his constituents opposed the driver's license provision -- something she said the Latino community supported.

Neumann-Ortiz also said she thought the 2008 campaign in which former state Rep. Pedro Colon ran against incumbent Grant Langley for city attorney was "inflammatory and catered to the white vote," specifically when attention was drawn to Colon's support of a sanctuary city. Colon lost the election but was later appointed a Milwaukee County judge and won election to the seat.

Colon testified that he won the former 8th Assembly district in the race for city attorney, but a substantial number of votes there are lost under the new plan.

-- By Marie Rohde


 9:34 AM 

Asst AG argues no legal basis for challenging redistricting map

There is no legal basis for the challenge to the redistricting law, Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar said today in her opening statements of a trial challenging the maps.

Lazar, who is defending the law, pushed back against two arguments raised in the lawsuit challenging the map -- that the plan dilutes minority representation and that some 300,000 people will go six years between voting for a state senator.

Lazar noted that the Latino community is divided on the plan. Those supporting it note that the two Assembly districts created that incorporate much of Milwaukee's Latino population will each have a super majority soon because of the number of young Hispanics coming of voting age.

She also noted that while 300,000 voters statewide will go six years between regulr state Senate elections, the number was higher in a map crafted in 1982.

Lazar also said that if you removed the voters who could have voted in recent state Senate recall elections, the number drops to about 135,000 who will not be able to vote for a senator for six more years.

The population deviation among the districts is also less than in 1982, she said.

"That body (the Legislature) does not have to draw a map that satisfies everybody," she said. "That would be impossible."

She noted that much of the criticism over the process has been over the speed of the adoption of the GOP drafted plan, which took only 12 days. The 1982 plan took only five days, she said.

"The process of the Legislature is not on trial here," she said

-- By Marie Rohde


 8:32 AM 

Redistricting trial gets underway

The trial challenging the constitutionality of the GOP-produced redistricting plan was set to begin Thursday morning after a second failed attempt by the three-judge panel to get lawmakers to re-work the maps to address concerns raised in the lawsuit.

Peter Earle, a plaintiff's lawyer, said attorney Jim Troupis, who helped create the maps, was questioned in a court-ordered deposition Wednesday that went for eight hours, ending at 11 p.m.

Troupis had claimed that he could not be questioned because of lawyer-client privilege. The judges ruled that he had narrow privilege and that he could be questioned regarding the bulk of the emails that the court recently ordered be made public.

-- By Marie Rohde


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

 4:05 PM 

Lawmakers decline to redraw maps

Lawyers defending the GOP-drawn redistricting plan said lawmakers will not attempt to remake the map to address issues raised in a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

The decision means that the case will go to trial in federal court Thursday morning.

A three-judge panel overseeing the suit earlier today had asked the parties to try redrawing the maps to address issues in the suit.

-- By Marie Rohde


 2:12 PM 

Extension requested in redistricting case

The federal court overseeing the redistricting lawsuit has received a request for an extension.

The court had previously set a 2 p.m. deadline for lawmakers to respond to its request to redraw the maps Republicans crafted last summer.

-- By Staff


 10:39 AM 

Three-judge panel orders lawmakers to see if they can redo redistricting

The Legislature has the power to redo the GOP-designed redistricting plan to address concerns raised in a suit challenging the constitutionality of the lines and must decide by this afternoon if they're willing to do that, a three-judge court ruled Wednesday.

The judges gave lawyers until 2 p.m. today to respond on their request to rework the maps. If they refuse, the trial would resume at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

On Tuesday, the judges expressed concerns over points raised by plaintiffs that some 300,000 residents would not be able to vote for a member of the state Senate for six years and that members of the Hispanic and African-American communities would see their voting rights diluted. They asked the lawyers to see if the parties involved could address those concerns with new maps.

When they returned to court Tuesday afternoon, Dan Kelly, a lawyer defending the plan, reported that legislative leaders essentially said they would considering doing new maps if they could, but believed they couldn't. Kelly said redoing it would be violate the Wisconsin Constitution because state lawmakers are limited to doing just one map every 10 years. Lawyers defending the maps have also argued the federal court is not in a position to interpret state law.

But Judge Diane Wood, speaking for the court, said this morning the panel had decided that it could interpret state law on that question and would.

"Nothing stands in the way of further revision of the redistricting plan," Wood said, adding that the question that remains whether there is a will to resolve the matter.

If the Legislature agrees to make the effort to redo the redistricting plan, it will have to be more than a "shake and bake" effort, said Judge J.P. Stadtmueller, referring to adopting a plan without public input.

"That's consistently been the biggest problem," Stadtmueller said. "It's not been in keeping with the tradition of open and transparent government."

Kelly, who represents the Government Accountability Board, questioned whether there could be new challenges to a revised plan.

Wood said the court would review an amended plan and there would be a trial if there was a disputed issue.

Kelly said the Legislature was essentially being asked to start over with the drafting and added "there's always going to be some other group that will want something different."

Stadtmueller said there is nothing wrong with the process being political but said "a political decision has to pass constitutional muster. That's what this case is about."

Maria Lazar, an assistant attroney general, said her side essentially wants the court to issue a consent decree, giving its stamp of approval to any negotited plan.

Judge Robert M. Dow Jr said "we wouldn't be sitting here if we didn't think there were some issues for trial. You guys can take those issues off the table."

On other matters, the court said the deposition of Jim Troupis, a lawyer involved in drawing up the plan, can proceed. The court found that there were only a handful of documents that would be off the table because of the attorney-client relationship.
The political and legal process was almost completely entwined, Dow said.

-- By Marie Rohde


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

 10:51 PM 

Sheboygan mayor ousted in recall election; Cullen advances in Milwaukee Co. race

Former Dem state Rep. Terry Van Akkeren defeated incumbent Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan in a recall election Tuesday.

Ryan, an admitted alcoholic who's been involved in a number of high profile incidents in recent years, received 5,247 votes, or 46.6 percent of the overall vote, on spring primary day.

Van Akkeren, who lost to Ryan in 2009, received 6,004 votes or 53.4 percent according to preliminary returns.

Meanwhile, Dem Rep. David Cullen advanced to the spring general election in his Milwaukee County supervisor race. Cullen won the four-way primary with 54 percent of the vote; he'll face Dan Cody in April, who won just over 26 percent of the vote.

And Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett overwhelmingly won his primary for re-election. He'll face Edward McDonald in the spring election.

-- By Staff


 7:04 PM 

Lawyers say lawmakers interested in tweaking maps, but don't believe they can

Attorneys indicated late Tuesday legislative leaders were interested in changing the redistricting maps they drew to address several issues raised in a suit challenging the new lines, but indicated the lawmakers believe they cannot because of a 100-year-old court ruling.

A federal judge also again chided Republican lawmakers for what he said was a continued effort to hide the redistricting process from the public and fight the lawsuit with questionable tactics.

Dan Kelly, a lawyer representing the state, and Maria Lazar, an assistant attorney general, said they had contacted legislative leaders about Judge J.P. Stadtmueller’s earlier request to change the maps to account for concerns over minority representation and some 300,000 voters who would go six years between voting for their state senators.

"Legislative leaders are interested," Kelly told the court. "But there is an impediment."

Kelly cited a 1910 case decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court that he said means that the Legislature can only enact a redistricting plan once every 10 years. Since the recent plan was enacted last summer, the Legislature can't redo it, Kelly argued.

Lawyer Doug Poland, a lawyer for some plaintiffs challenging the maps, countered that since the Legislature is still in the same session they could still take them up.

A trial over the constitutionality of the maps was slated to begin Tuesday, but Stadtmueller delayed the start by asking all sides involved to come up with a deal on their own to address the concerns raised in the suit. After huddling all day, lawyers met again at 5 p.m. with no deal.

Stadtmueller also learned at the early evening session that attorneys supporting the redistricting plan dumped another batch of emails on attorneys for the other side, prompting Stadtmueller to once again criticize the process used in creating the plan.

His comments came after Peter Earle, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, said his office had been given a number of emails on Friday that the court had not even received. Those emails were not yet publicly available.

The three-judge court "has had enough charade and mischaracterization," Stadtmueller said. He added that "the facts are the facts" and that what has occurred was "beyond the pale."

"Wisconsin has prided itself with openness and transparency ... we have seen everything but that," Stadtmueller said.

The three-judge panel has several times criticized lawyers representing the GOP lawmakers who crafted the maps for trying to keep testimony and documents related to the process off-limits to the other side by claiming attorney-client privilege. At one point, the judges were so enraged that the GOP lawyers continued to make the same argument despite losing several times that the attorneys were personally sanctioned by the court.

On another issue before the court, Stadtmueller said that James Troupis, a lawyer involved in drawing up the plan, would have to be deposed by lawyers for the other side. He had been fighting being questioned under oath, saying he had immunity because of the attorney-client relationship.

The court ordered that lawyers for both sides brief that by Wednesday morning and noted that the trial may not continue Wednesday if the deposition goes forward. While Troupis may not have to answer all the questions, he will be deposed, Stadtmueller said.

Because of the likely deposition of Troupis by lawyers for the plaintiffs, the trial may not proceed on Wednesday. However, lawyers will be in court for a ruling on some of the issues raised Tuesday.

If the trial cannot be completed this week, Stadtmueller said it may have to be adjourned until March 12 or 19.

Stadtmueller also told the lawyers for both sides to prepare memos on the question of whether the three-judge panel has the authority to rule on the state constitutionality question.

"I believe, at least for the moment, that the court has the authority to interpret state law," Stadtmueller said.

-- By Marie Rohde


 3:09 PM 

Clerks, GAB exec dir say few problems, light turnout

Several clerks around the state say they’ve had few problems today with the new voter ID requirement.

Cinda Langhoff with the Sheboygan Clerk’s office said there were some people who were irate Tuesday at having to show their IDs for the first time to cast a ballot, and one woman refused to show her ID or sign the poll book, another new requirement under the law. In the end, she walked out of the polling site without voting.

“For the most part we haven’t had hardly any complaints,” she said. “Usually everybody has been coming to the door with their IDs ready to show.”

The recall election of Mayor Bob Ryan against former Dem state Rep. Terry Van Akkeren was goosing turnout in Sheboygan with about 18 percent of voters casting ballots by noon. Langhoff said that’s a little higher than normal for a spring primary.

Milwaukee Election Commission executive director Sue Edman said turnout was light, but about right for what’s on the ballot. The local races in the state’s largest city include primaries for city treasurer featuring state Sens. Tim Carpenter and Spencer Coggs, former state Treasurer Dawn Marie Sass and Rick Kissel. Mayor Tom Barrett also faced a primary, but has no real big-name opponent standing between him and re-election.

Edman said the city had a few issues with voters who received notification cards of their polling places that were incorrect, largely because the agency was rushing to get people in the right wards following redistricting. But the voter ID requirement hasn’t been an issue.

“You might have a few complaints,” she said. “But for the most part people are more than happy to display their ID.”

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said any issues with today’s primary have been minor so far.

There have been some instances of poll workers forgetting to ask for an ID as well as some who have taken the requirement too far. The law does not require the address on an ID to match the poll book if the person is already registered to vote, but at least one poll worker insisted it did.

Kennedy said that requirement is not in the law because driver’s licenses are good for eight years and don’t have to be updated if someone moves.

Those registering at the polls, though, need something with their current address on it that establishes their residency.

Kennedy said there was also an issue in one community relating to a new requirement that someone live in their residence for 28 days before being able to cast a ballot in that district. Kennedy said the voter’s license address was not current, so the poll worker sent the voter to the polling place that matched the ID. But the poll worker there said the voter had been gone from the old address for more than 28 days and couldn’t vote there.

“These are isolated incidents, but they’re the kind of thing that happens when you’re deploying a large number of people with a new responsibility,” he said.

-- By JR Ross


 9:53 AM 

Lawyers mum on judges' request

Lawyers for neither side would say whether a deal could be worked out in the Legislature.

Dan Kelly, a lawyer with the Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren law firm representing GOP legislators, said Stadtmueller's instructions were unusual. Asked if the judge's admonition was a sign that his case could be in trouble, Kelly said "absolutely not."

"It demonstrates that the court recognizes that this is a significant political issue rather than a judicial issue," he said, adding it is more appropriate for it to be decided in the Legislature.

Maria Lazar, an assistant attorney general representing the GAB and defending the maps, said that a recent Texas case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court should be viewed carefully. That decision found that the lower court acted too broadly in addressing redistricting issues.

Judy Robson, a Democrat and former state senator from Rock County who is one of the plaintiffs, had a dire prediction of the outcome of the reconciliation demand. She said the chances of a deal were "slim to nonexistent," adding Republicans believe their plan is valid. She noted, however, that the judge "used the term gerrymandering at least six times in his remarks."

Peter Earle, a lawyer representing plaintiff Voces de la Frontera, declined to comment except to say "we are taking a look at the admonition of the court."

-- By Marie Rohde


 9:24 AM 

Judge offers both sides chance to fix key issues with redistricting maps

Judge J.P Stadtmueller told all parties that they need to get together and determine whether the Legislature can come up with plan that will address the two key issues in the redistricting suit -- the disenfranchisement of minority voters and the 300,000 residents who will go six years between voting for a state senator.

If the lawyers think the issues can be resolved, the Legislature would have four weeks to come up with a new map.

Quoting his mentor, the late federal Judge John Reynolds, Stadtmueller said, "It's never too late to engage in meaningful dialogue between lawyer and client ... on redistricting."

He said the state leadership -- including the governor, the attorney general and others -- need to decide by 5:30 p.m. if they can reach a deal to go back and try to work things out. If the Legislature gives it a try, lawmakers would have four weeks to finalize a new map. The trial would then resume March 12 or 19, he said.

-- By Marie Rohde


 9:13 AM 

Redistricting trial delayed

The trial challenging the GOP redistricting plan got off to a slow start Tuesday when federal Judge J.P Stadtmueller went into recess because some key players either didn't make it through the long security line in the federal courthouse in Milwaukee or were not aware they would be needed.

Stadtmueller also noted that the three-judge panel -- which also includes Diane Wood and Robert Dow Jr. -- had been inundated with paperwork from the bevy of lawyers representing parties in the case.

Some 2,400 pages of filings had been received in recent days "many of which came in after the close of the day Monday."

Among the issues raised in the motions was that of a clarification of the attorney-client privilege of James Troupis, a Madison lawyer involved in the development of the redistricting plan. Stadtmueller adjourned the proceeding until Troupis and his lawyer showed up.

-- By Marie Rohde


 8:09 AM 

Federal redistricting suit begins this morning

A federal trial is slated to begin this morning over GOP redistricting maps.

A group of Dem voters filed suit last summer even before the maps had passed the GOP-run Legislature challenging their constitutionality. The suit has since been amended to address a series of issues, including the makeup of Hispanic and African-American districts and some 300,000 voters that will go six years between voting for their state senators.

The court has set aside a week for the trial, though it could wrap up before then.

Keep checking the WisPolitics.com Election Blog for updates.

-- By Staff


Friday, February 17, 2012

 3:20 PM 

Judge denies Walker request for more time to review recall petitions

A Dane County judge today rejected Gov. Scott Walker's request for an additional two weeks to review the recall petitions filed against him.

Walker had argued there was not sufficient time to complete his review with the original 20-day extension he had received. He argued the additional two weeks would have pushed his deadline to March 12, which he argued would still allow the GAB to finish its work on the petitions and decide whether to certify an election by the end of March. The GAB was previously given until March 19 to rule on the petitions.

But Judge Richard Niess said he'd already tripled the time Walker was allowed under state law to review the petitions.

In his filing, Walker said he was finding an error rate of between 10 percent and 20 percent, well short of the approximately 50 percent error rate needed to derail an election.

"There is little likelihood that there's going to be any legitimate challenge to the sufficiency of the petition," Niess said.

-- By Andy Szal


 8:31 AM 

Redistricting emails show GOP aides, lawyers coordinating testimony

The redistricting emails Republicans tried to keep secret show the Legislature’s attorneys and GOP aides coordinated testimony with witnesses on the maps and considered requiring special elections in some Senate districts where voters would go six years without voting for their state senator.

The emails were released yesterday after a federal court slammed GOP lawmakers for trying to shield them under attorney-client privilege and ordered their release in advance of a trial next week on a lawsuit by Dem voters.

Many of the emails focused on the Hispanic populations in two Assembly districts that are at the heart of one legal challenge of the legislative maps. The disenfranchisement of some voters in Senate districts is also an issue in the lawsuit. Some emails show a GOP aide and a lawyer for Republicans discussed countering that issue by pointing to last summer’s recall elections, which they theorized could be used to lower the number of voters truly disenfranchised.

They also the coordination on testimony with witnesses who testified on the maps included talking points and prepping them on specifics.

Those witnesses included Dane County Supv. Eileen Bruskewitz, a conservative who lost a race for county exec last year. The emails include an outline of draft testimony for her.

Others Republicans coordinated with, according to the emails, include Milwaukee Elections Commissioner Bob Spindell, former UW Regent Gerard Randall, who is African-American, and former DWD Secretary Manny Perez, who is Hispanic.

The emails also include an outline of criteria that should be used for comparing various proposed maps.

The list includes ensuring no minority legislators are paired, “incumbent protection,” whether any leaders are paired with other lawmakers in the newly drawn districts, and making sure districts meet population criteria as closely as possible when “there are other issues about criteria, e.g. political gerrymandering & race.”

Among the emails are some involving former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, whose input was sought on the Hispanic Assembly districts, and what appears to be a draft of a floor speech for an unnamed Senate Republican who opposed the process by which the maps were drawn and favored an independent commission to undertake the task.

Read the emails:

-- By Staff


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

 6:09 PM 

Walker wants more time to review petitions, Dems oppose request

Gov. Scott Walker argues in a new court filing that he needs an additional two weeks because he’s only a fourth of the way through the 150,000 pages of petitions filed against him.

But the committee seeking his recall responded today that Walker has decided to spend the millions he’s raised trying to fend off a recall on advertisements and shouldn’t be granted an extension just because he hasn’t dedicated more resources to the petitions.

A hearing on Walker’s request, filed Monday, is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

A Dane County judge originally granted Walker a 20-day extension on top of the 10 days he has under state statutes to review the petitions.

In his request, Walker argues the additional two weeks would give him until March 12 to finish his review of the petitions. The GAB faces a March 19 deadline to rule on whether an election should be held, and Walker argues in his brief the agency could still finish its work by the end of March.

Walker argues the error rate for signatures is expected to be between 10 percent and 20 percent, and there's not sufficient time to provide factual basis for objections to the problematic signatures as well as root out duplicates.

The brief also argues giving Walker an extension could save the GAB time in reviewing the objections.

“The current period set by the court is not a legally sufficient amount of time to perform a meaningful review of the recall petition and raise objections that are properly supported by evidence,” Walker argues.

But the recall committee, in its response filed this afternoon, says Walker acknowledges he'd need an error rate of closer to 50 percent to put a recall election in doubt. What’s more, the committee argues Walker’s claim of an error rate of 10 percent to 20 percent is not supported by any evidence submitted to the court and if he had, the actual rate would likely be much lower.

Because he's nowhere near challenging enough signatures to derail an election, he has not provided good cause to grant another delay and his request should be denied, the committee argues.

“If Governor Walker (or the GAB for that matter) desires to study in depth various aspects of the petitions -- or is intent on knowing whether there are 450,000 versus 364,000 signatures above and beyond that necessary to trigger the election -- he is free to pursue the matter,” the committee argues. “Be he is not free to delay the certification process -- and his election -- in meantime.”

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy declined to comment on Walker’s request, saying the agency planned to meet with its lawyers today to discuss it.

He also said the agency is making good progress on its own review of the recall petitions.

“We’re plugging away, and I’m happy with the process we’re making,” Kennedy said.

-- By Staff


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

 9:07 AM 

GOP Rep. Litjens decides against seeking second term

Rep. Michelle Litjens, R-Vinland, announced today that she will not seek election to a second term.

“Only a year and a half after I decided to run, I was fortunate to be part of a new group of leaders who’ve turned our state around and I am so proud to have been part of that team," she said in a prepared statement. "Faced with a decision to pour my heart into another campaign or focus my time on my teenagers and family, I decided family had to be my priority. You only get a few short years with kids in high school and I don’t want to miss watching them grow up. For that simple reason, I have decided not to seek a second term in the State Assembly."

Read her full statement

Monday, February 13, 2012

 5:39 PM 

Recall committees file challenge responses

The committees formed to recall four GOP senators today filed their responses to the senators' petition challenges with the Government Accountability Board.

Among the committees' other arguments, they assert that GOP challenges are based on newly drawn district lines -- which the committees' brief argues has already been reviewed and rejected by the GAB -- improper analysis of the 60-day signature collection window, and "false assertions about identified petition pages and signatures."

See the full responses:
- Committee to recall Fitzgerald
- Committee to recall Galloway
- Committee to recall Moulton
- Committee to recall Wanggaard

-- By Staff


 12:30 PM 

GAB unveils recall petition center

State election officials today for the first time revealed where they’ve been checking the recall petitions filed against the guv, lt. guv and four state senators.

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said the agency decided to give the media tours of the building today because the scanning process is now complete and there are electronic copies of the thousands of pages filed and still stored on site.

“We’re trying to add to the transparency of the process,” GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said.

Temporary workers have spent the past month working out of the state’s Central Services Building just east of Madison’s downtown. The building also houses the Department of Administration’s Mail Services operation and the University of Wisconsin Art Department's Tandem Press.

The facility was under 24-hour security until the scanning process was completed about two weeks ago and still has Capitol Police staffing it as long as GAB workers and temporary employees are in the building.

The one-story, gray brick building along the Yahara River includes a fenced-in parking lot that restricts access to the entrance of the recall petition center.

There are still about 50 temporary workers staffing the operation with at least two regular GAB staffers on site at all times. With the scanning now complete, the employees are now focused on inputting information for a database the GAB is creating of each page filed.

See more WisPolitics coverage here.

-- By Staff


Thursday, February 9, 2012

 6:12 PM 

GOP challenges knock out four with redistricting claims -- only one without

The four GOP challenges to the recall petitions filed would derail the elections if all are upheld by the Government Accountability Board.

But most of those hinge on an argument that a large portion of the signatures were from those outside the lines of the new Senate districts that Republicans crafted this summer. The GAB said last year that the recall elections will be held under the liens in place since 2002, citing language in the legislation approving the new districts that said those maps didn't take effect until the November 2012 elections.

If those old districts ultimately hold up, the GOP wouldn't be able to disqualify enough signatures from the petitions filed against Sens. Pam Galloway of Wausau, Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls and Van Wanggaard of Racine to stop a recall election.

If all other challenges were upheld, the recall Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau could still be stopped.

Lastly, when it comes to the matter of duplicate signatures and fakes:
*The Moulton petition challenged 265 signatures as duplicates, though noted no fake names.
*Galloway challenged 403 duplicates, though noted no fake names.
*Fitzgerald challenged 205 duplicates, and one fake name that was only noted as having the last name of a well-known slang usage of "sucker."
*Wanggaard challenged 137 duplicates and no fake names.

Despite the lack of fake names, many of the signatures were challenged on the claim that they contained signatures in the same handwriting.

The challenge details are posted below:
Fitzgerald challenge:
Moulton challenge:
Wanggaard challenge:
Galloway challenge:

The original challenge numbers provided from Committee to Elect a Republican Senate were incorrect in the Moulton challenge. Based on the filing challenges listed, Moutlon would not be able to head off a recall. The article above has been changed to reflect that.

-- By Jason Smathers


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

 5:21 PM 

As Falk gets WEAC nod, candidate mum on challengers

Wisconsin Education Association Council announced it would back Kathleen Falk for governor, while Falk promised she would veto a state budget that did not restore collective bargaining rights for state workers.

Falk made it clear that she would veto any budget bill that did not include collective bargaining rights and said that "I've been saying that regularly and often over the last year."

"And I regularly get asked, 'Kathleen, what can we do to undo his damage?' And I've said the way you undo his damage is the same vehicle by which he did the damage. He abolished 50 years of collective bargaining rights in a budget repair bill, the way you restore them is in a budget bill."

Falk dismissed criticism from opponents who say that she'd be taking her calls from public unions, saying that her track record as Dane County executive proves that would not be the case.

Falk also had nothing to say about any of her declared or potential challengers in the race. When asked what set her apart from Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, who announced today, Falk responded "We're all friends." She said that regardless of who the nominee is, Democrats and independents will unite behind the recall of Scott Walker. She said that her background will prepare her to be that candidate to replace him.

"I've spent 14 years leading the state's second largest county, balancing a budget year in and year out, far longer than Gov. Walker," Falk said "And I did it through shared sacrifice, not on the backs of any one person or people. And that's what a leader needs to do."

Bell said Falk cared deeply about education issues and would resotre "balance and transparency" to Wisconsin government. Bell said that WEAC chose Falk in a Democratic process with "members and member leaders across the state."

When asked after the conference whether they would support the Democratic nominee if it's not Falk, Bell said: "Recall of Scott Walker is a priority."

The first half of the press conference was focused entirely on Walker. Four teachers spoke about the need to remove Walker from office and the effect of his budget and policies on their schools.

Listen to the press conference:

-- By Jason Smathers


 2:46 PM 

AFP, MacIver begin new $700,000 TV buy promoting Walker's reforms

The Americans for Prosperity and MacIver Institute yesterday began a new $700,000 TV ad buy promoting the guv’s collective bargaining changes and budget reforms.

The buy starts with an ad dubbed “Within Means” that the two groups originally ran in November.

AFP-Wisconsin state director Luke Hilgemann said the group is shooting a new ad that it hoped to have on the air by the middle of next week. It will follow some of the same themes the groups have previously raised as part of the “It’s Working” campaign they began last fall. But it will focus more on property taxes.

“We are continuing in the same lines that we started with educating citizens about the effects the budget reforms have had and we are moving forward with that project at a time when some people have questions about the true impact these reforms have had,” he said.

Hilgemann said the new ad campaign will run through Feb. 20.

The ad now running does not mention Gov. Scott Walker or the looming recall election. It features a series of people the spot says are involved in small businesses

-- By Staff


 2:33 PM 

Sources: WEAC to endorse Falk

The state’s largest teachers union this afternoon will back former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk for governor, according to two sources with knowledge of the announcement.

WEAC planned a news conference at 4:15 p.m. at the Monona Youth Dream Park in Winnequah Park.

Falk campaigned in Eau Claire and La Crosse today as part of a formal announcement tour but was expected back in Madison this afternoon.

WEAC has sent numerous signals in recent months that it was lining up behind Falk in the anticipated recall election of Gov. Scott Walker. The union released a memo in December that argued Falk was in as strong of a position as other possible Democratic candidates in taking on the incumbent.

Union President Mary Bell and Marty Beil, head of the state’s largest public employee union, also met with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who’s considering a bid, in an effort to dissuade him from getting in the race.

According to a WEAC media advisory, "The board of directors of the Wisconsin Education Association Council along with the WEAC PAC, representative of teachers and support staff from all across the state, have completed a thorough and democratic process to recommend who they believe is the best candidate to champion public schools.

"Representative members on the recommendation committee focused on issues that matter most to educators as part of the selection process, such as commitment to strong public schools, giving employees a voice in the workplace and leadership approach."

-- By Staff


 11:18 AM 

Vinehout formally announces guv campaign

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, who last week filed to run for the office, formally announced today her campaign for guv.

Vinehout joints former Dane County Exec Kathleen Falk as the only two formally announced Dem candidates in the field to take on Gov. Scott Walker in an expected recall election.

She said in a statement the state needs "a fresh start and a new attitude in Wisconsin politics and government."

“We need a governor who will lead with self restraint; who will be clear and open about her intentions; who will respect Wisconsin’s traditions of good government; who supports and takes pride in our schools; who values the skills workers bring to their jobs. We need a governor who wants to solve problems, not score political points,” she said. “I pledge to be that kind of governor.”

Vinehout won her western Wisconsin Senate seat in 2006 and narrowly held off Libertarian-turned-Republican Ed Thompson in 2010 by 403 votes.

-- By Staff


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

 4:54 PM 

GAB won't consider outside reviews of recall petitions

Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy said Tuesday the board would not consider input from outside groups in its recall review process.

He told GAB members during a special meeting that state law does not currently provide for evidence from outside parties during the recall review and that it would be inappropriate to change procedures in the middle of the review.

A pair of Tea Party groups had requested that the GAB use its petition checks as part of the review, but Kennedy said individuals with concerns about signatures should direct their comments to the committees of the recalled officeholder in question.

"At the end of the day, we are trying to proceed as the policymakers have directed," GAB Chairman David Deininger said.

Ross Brown, of Madison Tea Party group We the People of the Republic, said his group is legally prohibited from sharing information with the campaigns, but that the Verify the Recall effort -- operated by Brown's group and Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Grandsons of Liberty -- would publish their findings publicly.

He accused the GAB of not taking appropriate steps to root out fraud in the recall signatures, and said he's "disappointed that the citizens are being cut out of the process."

Kennedy countered that the GAB process is a review of recall petitions, not a verification, and said the Verify the Recall project would go "way beyond" what is required in state statutes.

"Just like in a courtroom, you don't just allow people to walk in and say, 'I have additional evidence,'" Kennedy said.

State GOP spokesman Ben Sparks said in a statement that the party encourages "any individuals who identify potentially fraudulent signatures to report their findings to their local Republican Party office."

-- By Andy Szal


 10:51 AM 

GAB to continue more thorough petition checks despite appeals court ruling

Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy said this morning that the agency is continuing with its more thorough recall petition review process, despite an appeals court ruling last week that the order requiring those checks should be vacated.

Kennedy said Waukesha County Judge J. Mac Davis' ruling, which ordered the GAB to root out faulty signatures instead of relying on challenges from recalled officeholders, remains pending after an appeals court order for the circuit court to vacate and reconsider the decision.

The appeals court ruled Davis erred in barring recall committees from participating as interveners in the case.

"We're proceeding as if it is still in effect," Kennedy said of Davis' decision.

-- By Andy Szal


Friday, February 3, 2012

 3:39 PM 

GAB to discuss court decision at Tuesday's meeting

A GAB spokesman said the board will discuss today's appeals court ruling during closed session at its meeting Tuesday.

Reid Magney said the agency does not have any comment on the ruling at this time.

Following Waukesha County Judge Mac Davis' decision last month, the GAB announced plans to purchase software that it would use to scan recall petitions to aid it in checking for duplicative or problematic signatures. In the past, the GAB has done limited reviews of recall petitions to ensure the forms were filled out properly, but has left challenging signatures to the recall targets.

The Dem Party has complained that amounted to changing the standards for how the GAB handled recall petitions.

"This is a major step toward bringing some sanity back to this and bringing back the same review process to what every recall has had," said attorney Jeremy Levinson, who represented the recall committees.

State GOP executive director Stephan Thompson, a party to the suit, encouraged the GAB to continue with the more stringent checks of the recall petitions.

"The Government Accountability Board has stated that it is committed to removing fraudulent and duplicate signatures during its verification of Recall Petitions," Thompson said. "Today's appeals court ruling does not invalidate the need for heightened transparency and integrity in this process, and we encourage the GAB to continue its effort to ensure that Wisconsin electors are not treated unfairly in this process."

-- By Staff


 3:00 PM 

Appeals court vacates decision on GAB review of recall petitions

An appeals court today ordered a circuit court judge to vacate his ruling requiring the GAB to do a more thorough review of recall petitions.

The appeals court found Waukesha County Judge Mac Davis erred in barring the committees seeking the ouster of Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four GOP state senators from participating in the case.

-- By Staff


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

 2:10 PM 

Cullen drops out of guv race

State Sen. Tim Cullen announced this afternoon that he is dropping out of the guv's race.

He said he cannot raise the $1 million to $2 million he believes is needed to deliver his message against other candidates with more resources and better name recognition.

Cullen's latest campaign finance report showed he had just $26,299 in the bank at the end of 2011 after raising just $157 over the six-month period.

Cullen has said in recent weeks that he would run on a mesage of rising above the partisanship that has gripped the Capitol over the past year. But he said today a bipartisan message would be "impossible" in "the most angry, partisan race in Wisconsin history."

-- By Staff


 9:47 AM 

Barrett raises more than $140,000 in last half of 2011

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett raised $141,868 during the second half of 2011 for his re-election bid and had $414,161, according to his campaign.

Barrett, who faces token opposition for another term as mayor, has been considering a run against Gov. Scott Walker in the expected upcoming recall election, and campaign finance reports suggest he could start out with a significant financial edge over the other Dem contenders.

Former Dane Co. Exec. Kathleen Falk, one of three Dems to officially announce, said in a statement that she disclosed $25,862 cash on hand in her latest campaign finance report. Meanwhile, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma, who filed for governor late last week, reported raising $19,291 during the last six months of 2011. She spent $9,693 during the period and had $20,184 cash on hand.

And Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville reported raising just $157 over the period. His campaign spent $1,897 and had $26,299 in the bank.

Barrett’s report also showed he spent $99,306 during the second half of 2011. For the full year, raised $599,780 and spent $185,617.

-- By Staff


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