Did Redistricting Disenfranchise Voters in New 21st Senate District?
Racine County GOP says voters living in western Racine County and parts of Kenosha County feel they were cut out of the recall process by not being able to vote for the state senator who will represent them.
Some residents who live in the new 21st Senate District didn't vote in the June 5 recall election and are now claiming they were disenfranchised, according to the Racine County Republican Party.
Now that Democrat John Lehman has been formally declared the winner of the election against Republican Van Wanggaard, county GOP Chairman Bill Folk said residents in parts of Racine and Kenosha counties feel a little cheated.
"This is an unfortunate situation because residents who currently reside in the 21st District got to vote, but most of them will not be represented by Mr. Lehman," he said. "Voters in the new 21st are truly disenfranchised because they didn't have the opportunity to cast a vote for who will represent them until 2014."
That's because the boundary lines for all legislative districts in Wisconsin were redrawn last year after the 2010 Census was released. However, the new boundaries don't take affect until the November election, which means many voters who voted last week will no longer be in his district.
Under the old boundaries, for example, the city of Racine is part of the 21st District. Once the new boundaries kick in, the city — as well as Kenosha — will be part of the new 22nd District. Mount Pleasant, Sturtevant and Caledonia, however, will remain in the 21st, which will cover western Racine and much of Kenosha County.
So while some residents in the new 21st Senate District may feel disenfranchised, an attorney for the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in Wisconsin, points out that this process takes place every 10 years.
"A lot of individuals are now being represented by people they did not vote into office," said Mike Haas. "Theoretically, the Legislature would have considered this when redistricting."
When legislators voted on redistricting last year, they were bound by state statute as part of the law they wrote. When comes to recall elections, the law said it would only apply for those conducted "concurrently with the 2012 general election" in November.
"The language is plain about when the new districts go into effect," Haass said.
Folk acknowledges he is a partisan with an ax to grind, but says the point is valid for discussion.
"The catch as I see it is in the meaning of the language," he explained. "The redistricting was to go into effect at the next election, which should have been the recall."
But, Folk continued, he also believes lawmakers made a tactical error by using template language to craft the bill they passed.
"Using a template in any other year makes sense," he said. "But in the environment of recall, there should have more foresight to avoid just this type of situation."
Patch is trying to reach voters who say they're impacted by the redistricting. We will update the story as we get their comments.