Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and other officials have been subpoenaed as part of a long-running legal fight over how the state’s latest election maps were drawn.
Two groups sued the state over the Republican-drawn maps. They want to examine certain state computers for evidence of documents the state may have wrongfully withheld, but contend that state officials won’t tell them where those computers are located.
So subpoenas were served last week on Vos; Senate Chief Clerk Jeffrey Renk; Assembly Chief Clerk Patrick Fuller; and the Legislative Technology Service Bureau, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report.
For five months, the plaintiffs have sought to search the computers used for redistricting to find out why they didn’t receive documents that were supposed to be released to them and to find out whether any other records were improperly withheld. But they haven’t been able to find out where the computers are kept.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said he couldn’t understand why the state refused to tell the plaintiffs where the computers were.
"This is public property that people pay for," the Kenosha Democrat said. "The fact they won’t share this information is beyond comprehension."
The subpoenas, issued Friday, are an attempt to compel officials to produce the computers, hard drives, compact discs and documents. The plaintiffs want the officials to testify under oath about the computers.
"We’re through fooling around," said Peter Earle, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. "We’re going to get to the bottom of where these computers are."
The case stems from redistricting. Every 10 years states draw new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts to account for population shifts. Republicans controlled the state Legislature in 2011 and were able to approve maps that favored the GOP.
A group of Democrats and immigrant-rights group Voces de la Frontera sued, and a panel of federal judges last year ordered that two Assembly districts in Milwaukee be adjusted after ruling that the original configuration unfairly weakened Latinos’ voting rights.
Lawyers for the Legislature were repeatedly ordered to turn over relevant documents but they resisted. They were eventually fined $17,500 for filing what the judges called frivolous motions to try to block their release.
After the court’s ruling on the maps, additional documents that should have been handed over were discovered. In August the plaintiffs said they wanted to search three state computers used in the redistricting process, and they sought subpoenas so they could find out where the computers were.
Vos said last week he knew nothing about where the computers were. An aide on Friday acknowledged receiving the subpoena.
A subpoena was also planned for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Tom Evenson, an aide to the Juneau Republican, declined to comment.
Jeff Ylvisaker, director of the Legislative Technology Services Bureau, said two of the state computers used in redistricting are now in Fitzgerald’s office. He said the third is “controlled by” the Assembly chief clerk, although neither he nor the chief clerk would say where that computer is now.