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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

 10:55 AM 

Attorney calls GOP Assembly map worst partisan gerrymander in modern history

The Assembly map Republicans drew in 2011 was one of the worst partisan gerrymanders in modern American history and designed to withstand political swings to ensure a GOP majority for a decade, an attorney for a dozen Dems suing to overturn the lines argued today.

University of Chicago Law Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos, representing the Dem plaintiffs, said in federal court Wisconsin’s Assembly map stands out from other state plans that have been challenged. In addition to its blatant partisan intent, he said, it was drawn in such secrecy that it violated the “basic responsibility to govern.”

“It was designed to be an egregious gerrymander,” Stephanopoulos said, adding that goal will continue to be accomplished unless the court intervenes to “protect democracy.”

But Assistant Attorney General Brian Keenan countered the maps do not fit the traditional definition of gerrymandering and are, in fact, a reflection of changing demographics, not illegal partisan intent.

He also dismissed concerns raised by Stephanopoulos over the method used to draw the maps. Under that process, Republican aides used a room at a private law firm for their work.

There was limited access to the room for then-Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and several of their aides. GOP lawmakers were brought in privately for briefing on the changes to their districts, but Dems had no knowledge of the proposed lines until the bill outlining the map was formally introduced.

Keenan noted other maps drawn by lawmakers in states such as Indiana and Pennsylvania, asking if anyone believes the opposite party was brought into the room and had input on how to draw the lines.

He said the facts plaintiffs will raise at trial are illuminating but do not support a constitutional violation.

“This isn’t a result of partisan gerrymander,” Keenan said. “It is a result of the change of political coalitions in this country.”

-- By JR Ross


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