The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is commending a Dane County judge’s decision against the Republican leaders of the Wisconsin Legislature who hired private attorneys in anticipation of legal challenges of redistricting decisions.
Debra Cronmiller, executive director of the league, issued a statement on Friday in response to Dane County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Ehlke’s ruling that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu had illegally hired private, taxpayer-funded attorneys to deal with redistricting matters, including any future lawsuits.
Cronmiller said the decision to hire the attorneys demonstrates the “broken, gerrymandered system,” and that, without Ehlke’s opinion, taxpayers would have had to bear the burden of “defending gerrymandered maps.”
Vos and LeMahieu entered into contracts with the attorney Adam Mortara and Consovoy McCarthy, the Washington-area law firm that represented former President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee. The state began paying $30,000 a month in January to cover consulting.
They also hired former Wisconsin Deputy Attorney General Kevin St. John at the Madison firm Bell Giftos St. John at an hourly rate of $375.
Ehlke ruled on Thursday that neither the constitution nor state law give the Legislature authority to hire the outside attorneys for redistricting since there is no pending lawsuit over the way the maps were drawn. He said the contracts were void and barred any future payments.
Every 10 years, the Legislature draws new maps for congressional and state legislative-district boundaries. Lawsuits are expected because Republicans control the legislature, but Gov. Tony Evers must sign the maps.
Cronmiller called for a transparent and nonpartisan redistricting process that should begin when Census data are available. The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is urging the Legislature to hold public hearings on prospective district maps to ensure proper representation and inclusion.Follow @WLJReporter