Republicans release redistricting maps for Wis.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republican-drawn maps released Friday redoing political boundaries for Wisconsin's eight congressional districts and all 132 legislative seats drew scorn from Democrats, who promised legal action.
Democrats accused Republicans of rushing to redistrict before recall elections later this summer that could give Democrats control of the state Senate.
The Legislature plans to vote on the maps starting July 19, three weeks before six Republican state senators face recall elections. Three Democrats also face recalls in July and August. As it stands now, Democrats don't have the votes to stop the GOP-drawn maps from being passed and sent to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
By virtue of having control of the Senate and Assembly, as well as the governor's office, Republicans have the rare opportunity to draw the lines in a way to give them an edge over Democrats in future elections.
Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and his brother Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald released a joint statement Friday offering little comment other than saying by releasing the maps and preparing to debate them in the Legislature they were fulfilling the constitutional requirement to redraw the lines.
Of course, Democrats saw it differently. Party Chairman Mike Tate called the maps nothing more than a "naked power grab," and the Democratic leader in the Senate, Mark Miller of Monona, promised a challenge in court.
"This shows exactly how terrified the Republicans are of the recalls this summer," Tate added.
Scott Fitzgerald's spokesman Andrew Welhouse said in a statement that the maps as drawn are legal.
"This reapportionment was done to fulfill the constitutional principle of `one person one vote,' with compact, contiguous districts that preserve communities of interest," he said.
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor would evaluate the maps once they pass the Legislature. He declined further comment.
Scot Ross, leader of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, accused Republicans of scheming in private with their lawyers to concoct maps that would rig future elections in their favor.
"It's unprecedented in terms of its brazen partisanship," Ross said. "It's another power grab and another overreach to support their narrow political interests."
The congressional map would remove Portage County and eastern Wood County from the 7th Congressional District, a seat currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy. About 60 percent of voters in those areas went for President Barack Obama in 2008.
The Democratic-leaning cities of Portage, Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids and Chippewa Falls would all be removed from Duffy's district, while he would pick up Republican-leaning areas including Vilas and St. Croix counties.
The communities removed from Duffy's district would go into the 3rd Congressional District, a seat currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Kind.
The map drew an angry response from Laura Hauser-Menting, co-chair of the Portage County Democrats.
"It's clear that Duffy's plan all along has been to work secretly with his colleagues in D.C. to kick our Democratic-leaning area out of his district," she said.
Duffy spokesman Daniel Son said the map makes modest changes and Duffy will "gladly represent whatever the 7th ends up looking like."
There are significant changes in the Legislature as well.
At least two Democrats running for the state Senate in recall elections would no longer live in their district after the redistricting plan goes through, Tate said.
That means if they win in the recalls, they would be forced to either run in new districts or move back into the districts they used to represent. The change affects state Rep. Fred Clark of Baraboo, running in the 14th District, and Nancy Nusbaum of De Pere, a candidate in the 2nd District.
At least two other Democrats -- Rep. Sandy Pasch of Whitefish Bay and Sen. Bob Wirch of Racine -- also would no longer live in their current districts under the new maps.
Also, instead of the 21st District being mostly Racine County and Wirch's 22nd District being mostly Kenosha County, the Democratic-leaning cities of Kenosha and Racine would go into one district and Republican-leaning western portions of the counties would be combined in another one.
The Legislature is charged with redrawing the lines for 99 Assembly seats, 33 Senate seats and all eight congressional districts based on population data from the U.S. Census. Wisconsin's population increased 300,000 over the past decade, with growth in and around Madison and the Fox Valley region while northern Wisconsin and Milwaukee saw a decline.
The last time one party held both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office during redistricting was in the 1950s, when the Republicans had control.
A federal lawsuit has already been filed this year. Last month, former Senate Democratic Majority Leader Judy Robson of Beloit and 14 other citizens asked for a federal three-judge panel to develop a redistricting plan if lawmakers do not put a constitutional plan in place in a timely fashion.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)