Thursday, March 22, 2012

Federal Judge Panel Ruled WI Act 43 Redistricting Maps Unconstitutional For Diminishing Hispanic Voting-age Population

(L-R) Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director for Voce de la Frontera, State Representative Josh Zepnick (D), State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa (D) and Attorney Peter Earle.

Photo: HNG

Wisconsin state legislators have to redraw the 8th and 9th Assembly Districts where Latinos reside to comply with the Voting Rights Act, a three federal judge panel ruled.

By H. Nelson Goodson
March 22, 2012

Milwaukee - On Thursday, a three federal judge panel ruled that the State of Wisconsin and the Government Accountability Board cannot use the newly drawn redistricting maps (Act 43) for the 8th and 9th Assembly Districts. The judge panel agreed that Act 43 violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and by implementing the new redistricting maps would deprive the Hispanic community in the south side of Milwaukee an effective voting majority in the 8th Assembly District.
In a press conference held at the Voces de la Frontera office in Milwaukee, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera said, "This is a vindication, that we were right. If the Republican Party had chosen to honor the public process-instead of secretly-there would have been the opportunity for a meaningful discussion and debate. Instead,  it only serves as a lenghty and costly lesson."
Attorney Peter Earle, who represented Voces de la Frontera in the federal lawsuit stated, the Republican controlled legislature drew up "a stupid and unconstitutional map that was adopted" in secret and now they will have to craft a remedy as soon as possible. "There will be no place for secrecy agreements. Most importantly, the new 8th Assembly District must have a Latino citizen voting-age majority of 60%," Earle said. The 9th Assembly District would have what ever Hispanic voting-age population left over, according to Attorney Earle. If, the state legislature fails to comply with the federal court order, 2011 redistricting maps would be used for the upcoming Assembly elections or the federal court would have to set its own remedy.
The judge panel agreed with Dr. Kenneth Mayer, who testified for the plaintiffs, that the new redistricting maps especially for the 8th Assembly District constituted an estimated 47.07% and the 9th Assembly District constituted 40.52% of eligible Hispanic voting-age population.
In conclusion, the judge panel found that "the Baldus and Voces de la Frontera plaintiff's are entitled for relief on their Section 2 claim concerning New Assembly Districts 8 and 9, because Act 43 fails to create a majority-minority district for Milwaukee's Latino community. Two influence districts have never been held to be an adequate substitute for such a district under the factual circumstances that we have before us. This holding is not intended to effect any other district drawn by Act 43. Indeed, to avoid disrupting other lines, the court emphasizes that the re-drawing of the lines for Districts 8 and 9 must occur within the combined outer boundaries of those two districts."
The judges gave the first opportunity for the state legislature to address the redistricting issue for the 8 and 9 Assembly Districts. The legislature must act quickly given the impending elections and should not be an impossible task to accomplish since, "Dr. Mayer has prepared at least one alternative configuration that should be a useful starting point," the three federal judge panel ruled.
JoCasta Zamarripa, (D) who represents the 8th Assembly District said, that at least 1 million people have been displaced statewide by the new redistricting maps, which were previously approved by the Republican controlled legislature and Republican Governor Scott Walker.
Josh Zepnick, (D) who represents the 9th Assembly District said, that he is eager to go back to the legislature and work to comply with the judges decision.

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