On Feb. 22, federal judges again asked the Republicans to redraw the redistricting maps in a manner consistent with Wisconsin standards of openness, transparency and public involvement. And for the second day in a row, Republicans obstinately refused to listen to the court.
The disrespect Republicans have shown the court – and the people of Wisconsin – in this redistricting process has drawn harsh rebukes out of a normally reserved and measured panel of judges. The panel, primarily appointed by Republican presidents, called the Republican actions a “shameful attempt to hide the redistricting process from public scrutiny.”
Instead of agreeing to an open, democratic process, Republicans have chosen secrecy at every turn in an attempt to hold on to their power at any cost. They have signed secrecy oaths to hide their actions from constituents and conducted legislative business behind closed doors at private law firms – all at mounting taxpayers’ expense at the rate of $395 an hour.
This stubborn refusal to go back to the drawing board to engage in a bipartisan, open redistricting process has caused the judges to become more frustrated and dismayed at Republicans’ lack of cooperation.
While it is shocking that Republicans would be so dismissive of the court’s clear desire for an open, bipartisan process – it is not too late. There has been an outcry inside and outside the courtroom, calling on Republicans to listen to the clear directive of the court, respect the will of people and lift the veil of secrecy.
Let’s take this out of the courtroom, stop battling judges and return to the Legislature to adopt a plan with public input that is, in the words of Judge J.P. Stadtmueller “in keeping with the tradition of open and transparent government.”
It is time for an open, bipartisan redistricting process that respects Wisconsin communities. I call on Republicans to tear up those oaths, tear down the walls of secrecy and create new maps that serve all the people of Wisconsin.
State Rep. Jon Richards is a Democratic legislator from Milwaukee.