In a not surprising event, Kenosha County has been sued once again. This time for violating constitutional rights. On Wednesday, September 15, the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors voted by 12 to 6 to adopt new supervisory districts. The problem with that is that the new map is likely illegal and unconstitutional. In a letter sent before the meeting, Attorney Anthony Nudo of Terry & Nudo, LLC outlined the issues with the map and assured the County that his clients would sue the County if they approved it. They approved it. Now a lawsuit has been filed.
Under the Constitution, the government has to perform a census and create new districts every 10 years for equal representation of the people. The County complied with creating the new districts, but that’s where it ends. Nudo confirmed on Thursday that he filed a lawsuit on behalf of his 11 clients, all electors of Kenosha County that will be affected by the alleged illegal map. According to Nudo, pursuant to state and federal redistricting law, new Kenosha County supervisory districts must: (1) be substantially equal in population; (2) be compact; (3) be contiguous; (4) maintain communities of interest within a district; (5) comply with the Voting Rights Act; (6) preserve political subdivisions; (7) preserve cores of districts; and (8) preserve incumbents. The lawsuit alleges that the County failed to comply with the law on many different fronts.
The main argument against the County is the violation of the “one-person, one-vote” rule created by the U.S. Supreme Court. Basically, the Court stated that every district should have an equal amount of population. A 2016 U.S. Supreme Court case (Evenwel v. Abbott, 577 U.S. 937, 136 S. Ct. 1120, 194 L. Ed. 2d 291) states, “[w]here the maximum population deviation between the largest and smallest district is less than 10%, the Court has held, a state or local legislative map presumptively complies with the one-person, one-vote rule. Maximum deviations above 10% are presumptively impermissible.” Here, Kenosha County has a deviation of 12.16%, substantially more than is presumed permissive by our Supreme Court.
In this lawsuit, the County has the burden to prove that the map is constitutional (based on the fact that the deviation is more than 10%). The County can prove the map is constitutional if it had a good reason to deviate more than 10%. For example, if the County was trying to preserve a “community of interest” (another constitutional principle), then it could deviate. The problem is the County failed miserably to preserve communities of interest within districts. A glaring example of this is White Caps Subdivision. A subdivision is a “community of interest” under redistricting guidelines, and should be represented by one supervisor. The basic principle is that like-minded people in a neighborhood should be afforded the right to complain to one politician if they have a problem. White Caps is represented by a homeowner’s association which is exclusive to the neighborhood. The residents of White Caps have a common interest and should be able to deal with a single supervisor. The new map has White Caps divided between three different supervisors. This adds to confusion and disenfranchises voters and violates the constitution. There are other examples of splitting neighborhoods just to benefit certain politicians, and not for the benefit of citizens.
Once again the County has purchased a lawsuit at the expense of taxpayers. It’s time for local politicians to start following the law – the law put in place to protect citizens, and not to protect politicians to keep their jobs. One-person, one-vote is a simple principle, and a good one at that. The County should follow it.
Towards the end of Wednesday night’s debate, Supervisor Jeff Gentz seemed to taunt the large crowd that attended the meeting to oppose the map saying “It’s also been brought up that we are gonna be sued in the morning, so be it!” To which the crowd yelled in excitement. Gentz then lost his cool and shouted at the chairman and asked that the citizens be removed. The chairman refused.
Here is the breakdown of how the board members voted:
Here is the video of the meeting. Map discussion starts at 54:11