Redistricting race: Who will finish first?July 15th, 2011 |
The race is on in Wisconsin to finish the representational redistricting. One battle rages in Madison, where the Republican Legislature is redrawing the state senate, assembly and congressional district lines in a way that critics say will favor GOP incumbents and candidates over Democrats. The other battle is in Milwaukee, where county citizens are in a futile race against time and a stubborn county board to stop a county map that received initial approval with limited public input and no municipal support.
The problem with both the statewide and county plans is the lack of public input or cooperation with all the parties involved.
It is also an example of why elections matter. The main critique of the state plans – that the new maps will favor the GOP or make contested seats safer for Republicans – is a direct result of the outcome of the November 2010 election. Every ten years, representational maps are redrawn to reflect population and residency trends reported in the census. Governmental units at all levels redraw their wards, supervisory districts, and congressional seats based on those trends.
During the last few redistricting attempts the Legislature was politically divided and could not come to an agreement on the final lines. The courts intervened and appointed an arbitrator to come to an agreement that was neutral to both sides. However, the law does not say the process has to be apolitical, only that the redistricting has to take into account minority representation to ensure there are majority-minority districts that are proportional to the population and residency trends.
“It’s incumbent upon the Legislature to act rather than leave it to the court,” said Tad Ottman, who worked on redistricting for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).
So now that the Republicans have complete control of the Legislature and the Governor’s office, they get to draw the lines. An opportunity the Democrats will have if they control Madison in 2021.
And in a matter of expediency or political ability, the Republicans intend to make those changes soon, as early as next Tuesday. The changes won’t affect the recall primaries or general elections that are already scheduled over the next 5 weeks, but it would change the districts for the 2012 Senate and Assembly elections.
State map will see drastic changes
The 8th Senate district, currently held by Alberta Darling, will become more Republican with the removal of voting wards in Shorewood, Glendale and Milwaukee. These three communities are where the effort to recall Darling was born and grew into the election she will face next month. Instead, the 8th will add more of Washington, Waukesha and Ozaukee counties, which have more conservative voting patterns.
Another area to see significant change is the Racine/Kenosha region. Currently, it has two state senators – Republican Van Wanggaard of Racine and Democratic Robert Wirch of Kenosha – each representing their respective counties. But the new state senate district map would divide Racine and Kenosha between urban and rural regions, not along the county line. This plan would create a sure Democratic district made up of the cities of Racine and Kenosha, with a sure Republican seat in the western parts of each county.
The northern part of the state will also see some changes. State Sen. Pam Galloway’s (R-Wausau) 29th district currently includes parts of Marathon, Shawano, Taylor, Price, Sawyer and Rusk counties. It will be more Republican with the removal of Shawano and Price counties. An Assembly district in the same area, the 87th, will also become more conservative with the removal of Price County – a county that has consistently and overwhelmingly voted for the Democratic candidate in previous state and federal elections.
But the Democrats get something out of this change — they have a more secure seat in the 25th district currently held by Robert Jauch (D-Poplar). With the addition of Price County and removal of conservative areas of Sawyer County, Jauch or a future Democrat will have an easier time getting elected.
And back in Southeastern Wisconsin, the 5th Senate district held by Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) stands to lose liberal Washington Heights in Milwaukee and other Democratic wards in West Allis and Wauwatosa to gain more conservative portions of Waukesha County.
Among the major changes to the state’s eight congressional districts – a move to take Democratic voting wards out of Sean Duffy’s 7th district to make it easier for him to win re-election in 2012 while adding those same Democratic districts to Ron Kind’s 3rd district.
That may make it easier for Kind to win re-election, but he is not happy about the incumbent protection map presented by the state Legislation.
“It does little to maintain competitive districts in Wisconsin. We need more competitive districts in order to end the intense polarization of our political system,” Kind says in a statement. “The map also does little to honor the historic Wisconsin tradition to keep Congressional districts as compact as possible and respect the territorial integrity of our counties – in fact it goes so far as to dilute our communities. The map breaks up the traditional alliance of Wausau, Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids, communities that have been in the same district for over 100 years. I am especially troubled by the manipulation of expected outcomes and the gerrymandering drawn into the third and seventh congressional districts.”
Implications in Milwaukee
However, in their haste to have the state legislative and congressional lines set, the Legislature could end efforts in Milwaukee County to throw out a map drawn by county board leaders. The county has until Oct. 1 to adopt a final supervisory district map, but the Legislature is basing its boundaries on a preliminary map the Milwaukee County Board approved on a 12-7 vote in April. That map was immediately questioned, since the public and municipal leaders had little notice to review or speak on the proposal.
The preliminary map reduces the number of supervisory districts from 19 to 18, eliminating Supervisor Joe Rice’s 6th district in the northern portion of Milwaukee County. Rice said a vote on the preliminary plan wasn’t even on the April 21 county board agenda, but was added during the meeting. Because of that, he has filed a lawsuit accusing the County Board of violating the state Open Meeting Law by voting on the proposed map without proper notice.
At a rare public hearing on the county’s redistricting plan held Wednesday, the committee got an earful on the proposal to break up Rice’s district containing Whitefish Bay, Bayside, Fox Point and Glendale, moving them into districts with Milwaukee, Brown Deer or Shorewood.
“I’m concerned you have been pressured to preserve Hispanic and African American districts without any concern for the North Shore,” said one woman from Whitefish Bay. “This decision will last 10 years and could do harm to our communities.”
Another woman (from a group of seven who drove to the meeting together) demanded to know why members of the county board’s redistricting committee didn’t bother to come to a public hearing on the issue held in Whitefish Bay last month.
“We want one single district and we don’t want to throw out Joe Rice,” she said.
Jerry Glaser, an author, former political candidate and resident of Northwest Milwaukee, chastized the board for not going further when cutting the number of supervisors or laying out the new districts. He suggested they consider 15 supervisors, the same number in Cook County, which has five times the population of Milwaukee County.
“These 18 districts don’t represent neighborhoods or create districts with nothing in common,” Glaser said. “Look at the new 15th. It starts down on 40th and Mitchell and stretches all the way north to 124th and Congress. Plus there are districts wrapped around districts, where you have to travel through another district to get to the rest of your district.”
The proposed map contains four wrap-around districts – the 4th, 5th, 7th and 10th. The 4th, represented by Marina Dimitrijevic, and the 10th, represented by Redistricting Committee Chair Michael Mayo, currently do wrap around other districts.
Elected officials also weighed in with a resolution approved and signed by the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council, an organization made up of all the mayors and village presidents in the county, along with County Executive Chris Abele. Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor told the redistricting committee that the proposed plan didn’t have the support of the ICC. He said the ICC believed the County Board violated state statutes which requires active participation by the affected municipalities and public in the redistricting process.
“I would have liked to have seen hearings on this spread around the county,” Taylor said. “The courthouse is hard to access and paying for parking down here is hard for the average person.”
The preliminary plan crossed Abele’s desk and he allowed it to go into effect without signing it. Abele has said he would have preferred a more substantial downsizing but didn’t veto the board’s plan because he thought a veto would be overridden.
Instead of the county board’s proposal, Taylor, the ICC, the Hispanic community and Supervisor Joe Sanfellipo have thrown support behind what is being dubbed the “Rodriguez Plan.”
“I think that this clearly includes better representatives, takes into account the population shift to the southern parts of the county and also restores Rice’s district,” Taylor said.
Jesus Rodriguez refused to take credit for the plan endorsed by the ICC, instead saying it was developed by the Hispanics For Leadership organization. He said it takes into account the growth of Milwaukee’s hispanic population by 43,000 over the last decade and maintains two Hispanic-majority districts in the county. Of the current 19 districts, two are considered Hispanic-majority; the board’s proposed plan reduces the Hispanic districts to one.
“Our map is apolitical. It is based on sound numbers and input from various members of the community,” Rodriguez said. “It has compact districts, preserves the cores of previous districts and maintains neighborhoods.”
He also invited the committee and members of the public to attend a meeting on July 20 at Tres Hermanos Restaurant on 13th and Lincoln to discuss the “Rodriguez Plan.”
Mayo said after the meeting that he expects the committee to only make “small tweaks” to the proposed map, mainly based on ward designations developed by the 19 municipalities. According to Glenn Bultman, a committee staffer, every community in the county (with the exception of Oak Creek) has delivered their new ward maps to the county and had drawn them in accordance with the county’s proposal.
But everything in Milwaukee County could be mute if the Legislature votes on their maps next Tuesday, which will set the county board’s plan in stone. Or in wet cement, since both these fights will probably end up in a court near you.
To see the state’s proposed maps for the Senate, Assembly and Congressional districts, click here