As Democrats were seeking access to Republican redistricting files last year, hundreds of thousands of computer files were deleted from state computers used by GOP aides, according to documents filed Thursday in federal court in Milwaukee. Democratic plaintiffs alleged in the court filing that six days after an agreement for Republicans to hand over files used to draw new legislative districts, someone logged in as a Republican aide deleted hundreds of thousands of redistricting files from one of the computers. The following week, redistricting documents were handed over to Democrats. "The meaning of this . . . cannot be known unless and until the deleted files are recovered and reviewed," one of the filings said of the deletions. The plaintiffs are seeking to have the state pay the more than $100,000 expense of the costly computer review needed to recover the deleted files.
The case holds high stakes for GOP lawmakers and Michael Best & Friedrich, the firm they hired to help draw the new legislative lines. The federal judges in the case have been critical of the way the firm handled the case, at one point ordering lawyers there to pay about $17,500 because they had filed frivolous motions in attempts to block the release of documents. Every 10 years, states must draw new maps for legislative and congressional districts to account for population changes. Republicans controlled all of Wisconsin's government in 2011, and they used their power to draw lines that were greatly beneficial to their party and those districts were largely upheld after a group of Democrats and the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera sued over them.