Documents shed light on GOP redistricting efforts

Associated Press State Wire: Wisconsin (WI) - Wednesday, August 1, 2012

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Newly released documents show Republican legislative leaders were looking at ways to increase the number of safe GOP districts and to protect conservative incumbents while redrawing political boundaries last year.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported ( ) Wednesday that emails and other documents in the legal file turned over to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller show Republicans were concerned about the political makeup of new districts when drawing them last year.

Republican leaders have repeatedly said the maps were not aimed at political advantage, even though the new boundaries favor the GOP. The new lines, required to be redrawn every 10 years, are in effect for the Aug. 14 legislative primary races.

"My criteria was creating maps that met all of the federal requirements and I could get the votes for," said Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, the Republican majority leader at the time the maps were drawn. "I have never said there was not a consideration given for incumbents."

State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said potential benefit to the GOP was not the main criteria.

"The three main factors were equal population, compact and contiguous, and maximum minority representation," he said.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said the documents show Republicans were lying to the public.

"To me, it's sort-of the smoking gun that shows that all of their efforts were political, partisan and about protecting their power," Barca said. "It shows their deceitfulness. They consistently maintained this was not about politics."

The law firm of Michael, Best & Friedrich released the documents to Miller after Democrats took control of the Senate following June recall elections that handed them a 17-16 majority. The law firm had been hired by Republicans last year to assist with the redistricting process. They were paid $431,000 in taxpayer money for the work.

Miller's office made the documents publically available on Tuesday.

One document detailed how many districts would be safe for Republicans, GOP-leaning, swing districts, safe Democratic, or lean Democratic under at least one version of the redistricting plan. It showed a dramatic increase in likely GOP seats.

That chart did not represent the final breakdown, said Tad Ottman, an aide to Fitzgerald at the time. Ottman worked on the redistricting plan with the law firm.

Another chart shows a breakdown of the last 10 years of Wisconsin elections, and which districts went to Democrats or Republicans.

In one email, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, suggests keeping parts of her district that are Republican and jettisoning those that are more Democratic.

"Western Wauwatosa — yes (more GOP)," she wrote. "West Milwaukee — No (forgot to mention this part of current district — VERY Dem."