Wisconsin Republicans seek to dismiss redistricting lawsuit

August 18, 2021 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature wants a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Democrats that seeks to have a judge take over the process of drawing new boundary lines if lawmakers and the Democratic governor can’t reach agreement.

Republicans, in a motion filed Tuesday, call the Democratic lawsuit “wildly premature” and a “direct attack on the Legislature’s constitutionally delegated responsibility of redistricting.” Democrats are attempting to obstruct and impede the Legislature’s redistricting work, Republicans argued.

The lawsuit was filed by national Democratic attorney Marc Elias on Friday, the day after Wisconsin and other states received census data that will be used to draw new political boundaries.

Republicans argue the Legislature should be allowed to intervene, and moved to dismiss the lawsuit because it “has the potential to prescribe new rules for the Legislature’s ongoing redistricting efforts, to take away the Legislature’s power to redistrict, and ultimately to alter the Legislature’s very makeup.”

The current maps were drawn by Republicans and enacted by then-Gov. Scott Walker in 2011. Republicans who strengthened their legislative majorities under the maps want to use them as the starting point for redistricting this year.

The lawsuit filed by Elias, who is leading the Democratic Party’s legal fight against new voting restrictions, asks the court to throw out Wisconsin’s current maps as unconstitutional, not allow them to be used for the basis of drawing new lines or any future elections. Democrats also ask the federal court to draw new maps if, as expected, Gov. Tony Evers doesn’t sign into law maps drawn by the Legislature.

Elias did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the Republican motion.

The Legislature argued in its motion that there is also no basis to declare the current maps unconstitutional.

Democrats’ “meritless constitutional claims are a poor disguise for their premature attempt to beat everyone to the courthouse, thereby impeding ongoing state reapportionment efforts,” the Legislature argued.

Republicans also argued that the lawsuit could result in a judge drawing maps before lawmakers even get a chance to complete their work.

“Everyone agrees that new districts are needed with the arrival of new census data,” Republicans said in the filing by their attorney Kevin St. John, a former Wisconsin deputy attorney general. “The Legislature intends to provide them.”

Both sides are moving quickly in the legal fight. The Democratic lawsuit came less than 24 hours after census data was delivered. Republicans sought the required approval by a legislative committee to intervene Friday and that was granted Tuesday. The motions were filed in federal court hours later.

The Legislature is being represented by private attorneys paid for by taxpayers, rather than the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Republicans contend their interests won’t be represented by the justice department, which is led by Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul.