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Thursday, February 23, 2012

 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

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