MADISON (AP) — Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen dropped an appeal Monday over a decision on the state's redrawn legislative boundaries, and agreed to pay the plaintiffs' attorneys more than $185,000 in taxpayer money.
The decision stems from challenges to Wisconsin's latest election maps, which Republicans drew in secret last year and pushed through a GOP-led Legislature. Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed them into law.
Democrats and an immigrant-rights group challenged the constitutionality of the maps, alleging in part that a new boundary unfairly divided one solid Latino bloc into two weaker ones. A panel of three federal judges upheld most of the borders but ordered that a boundary between two Hispanic-rich Milwaukee districts be adjusted.
Van Hollen, a Republican, appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court in April, saying he thought the court had overstepped its boundaries. But in a one-sentence statement filed with the court Monday, Van Hollen said the appeal was being withdrawn, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
"We looked at all of the options and concluded that this was the best way to proceed at this time," Dana Brueck, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an email.
The Justice Department also agreed to $185,500 to cover Voces de la Frontera's legal fees, bringing the total taxpayer costs for the maps to more than $1.5 million. Republican lawmakers committed $400,000 to law firms that helped produce the new maps, and redistricting lawyers who were hired by Republican Gov. Scott Walker to assist with the litigation were paid $925,000.
The overall figure could still rise. A separate group of Democrats who also sued over the maps have a request pending for their attorney fees to be covered, too.
Democratic lawmakers have assailed the costs, saying Republicans could have avoided legal challenges at taxpayer expense had they simply included Democrats in the redistricting process.
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