We understand that most readers aren't too interested in state or county redistricting. It comes once every ten years, yet the way it's done can determine the amount of influence Latinos can wield in Wisconsin politics. In recent news, Voces de la Frontera won a lawsuit against the State Government Accountability Board (GAB) alleging that Act 43 had disenfranchised Latino voters on Milwaukee's south side. It's a charge we have regularly called false.
Voces claimed that the 8th Assembly District - Represented by Jocasta Zamarripa - was redrawn in a way that had deprived the south side Latino community of an effective voting majority. We argued that south side Latino voters could not have been disenfranchised because the newly redrawn 8th Assembly District has more voting age Latinos presently than it had a decade ago when Pedro Colon was elected to the State Assembly. We made the point that if it were an effective voting district for Latinos in 2000 and 2002, then it would be an effective voting district today under newly drawn maps.
However, a Federal District Court disagreed ordering legislators to adjust the district line that separates the 8th and 9th Assembly Districts. When the legislature refused to call session, the panel of judges instructed the GAB and the plaintiff to submit their own maps for the court's consideration. Not surprisingly, the panel accepted the plaintiff's maps and Voces de la Frontera rejoiced calling it a "vindication." But not so fast.
J.B. Van Hollen, Wisconsin's Attorney General, filed an appeal yesterday to the U.S. Supreme Court disputing the Federal Court's ruling - particularly the redrawing of the 8th and 9th Assembly Districts. By law, the U.S. Supreme Court is required to take the case, which could lead to the reversal of the District Court's ruling. This could roll back Voces de la Frontera's so-called "vindication."
Already, Democrats are calling Van Hollen's decision a partisan move. However, we have yet to determine how an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court actually benefits Republicans. Out of all the state's Assembly Districts, 138 of 140 districts were determined by the District Court to be correctly drawn. Most Republicans consider this a major victory considering that Democrats wanted the entire map thrown out by the court. So why appeal something most Republicans consider a major triumph?
All other options exhausted, Van Hollen filed the appeal because he's exceedingly confident he can win the appeal. He believes that the 8th and 9th Assembly Districts - as prudently drawn under Act 43 - will give the Hispanic community the best chance to be adequately represented. Let's be clear, an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court does not appear to benefit the Republican Party. Instead, it could put their entire redistricting map on the chopping block if the Court were to decide that Act 43 needed a critical review. Perhaps another rationale is that Van Hollen wants to do right by the Hispanic community.
Voces' Attorney Peter Earle said in a prepared statement that the Court's ruling "serves as a lengthy and costly lesson [for Republicans].” Perhaps not. Perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court will have the smarts to separate the secrecy involved in drawing the maps from how the maps actually provide better representation under Act 43 than they do under the awkward maps submitted by Voces that cut across multiple wards in a non-contiguous fashion.