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Thursday, February 23, 2012

 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


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