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Redistricting experts submit $128K bill for review of Wisconsin legislative maps

WCCO digital headlines: Midday of Feb. 26, 2024
WCCO digital headlines: Midday of Feb. 26, 2024 07:16

Redistricting consultants hired by the Wisconsin Supreme Court have submitted a $128,000 bill for the work they did reviewing proposed new legislative maps, with about half of it likely to be paid by taxpayers.

The court hired a pair of redistricting consultants to review maps submitted by Republicans and Democrats after it tossed out the existing Republican-drawn maps as unconstitutional. After the consultants determined that the Republican submissions were partisan gerrymanders, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed maps drawn by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

He signed them into law last week, seemingly ending the court fight and giving Democrats a path to possibly gaining majority control of the Legislature after more than a decade in the minority.

The consultants submitted their bill to the court on Sunday. The costs will be paid by the parties in the case, which included six groups that submitted proposed maps. Three of those groups were funded by private attorneys and three others — Republican lawmakers, Democratic lawmakers and Evers — are funded by taxpayers.

However, there were other parties involved in the litigation and the court will ultimately determine how many will share in the costs.

The bulk of the charges come from the two main consultants hired at $450 an hour.

Jonathan Cervas, of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, submitted a $62,721 bill for more than 139 hours of work. Cervas redrew New York's congressional and state Senate maps after a court struck down ones adopted by the Democratic-led Legislature.

Bernard Grofman, of the University of California, Irvine, submitted a $39,762 bill for more than 88 hours of work. He helped redraw Virginia's federal and state legislative districts after a bipartisan commission deadlocked.

Fees from three other research assistants came to just short of $26,000.

The contract had allowed for the consultants to be paid up to $100,000 each. They said in their report that more work could be done to improve the maps under review by the court, but Evers signed the new maps into law in the meantime.

Evers has asked the state Supreme Court to clarify whether the maps will be in effect for any special elections prior to the November election.

Democrats have also asked the court to take up a challenge to the state's congressional district lines. The lawsuit argues that the court's decision to order new state legislative maps opens the door to challenging the congressional map. Republicans hold six of the state's eight congressional seats.

Republican lawmakers last year signed contracts with attorneys who could receive more than $1.8 million in taxpayer funds to defend the outgoing maps. Attorneys for Evers and Democratic lawmakers are also taxpayer-funded.

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