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Legislatively Speaking

Lena C. Taylor

The state of Wisconsin needs impartial redistricting. We also need people who fully understand the process and nuance of map drawing to be engaged. After all, redistricting was created to ensure that our state legislature and congressional districts reflect the diversity of our population in Wisconsin. Federal law, further, requires that redistricting must comply with the Voting Rights Act to ensure that minority populations have a voice in our government and have an opportunity elect people who mirror our communities.

In Wisconsin, the process is already underway. Our voting maps start with local municipalities. The first step starts with an independent group of Milwaukee area judges that have been selected to draw maps that could be recommended to the Milwaukee County Board. The group is known as the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC). Once the County Board of Supervisors conclude its work, it sends its district maps to the City of Milwaukee. Common Council members then complete the process to map out aldermanic districts. From there, the local maps are sent to the state for legislative districts to be drawn. When it’s all said and done, the final stop is congressional apportionment and the decisions on how the 435 congressional seats will be divided up between our 50 states.

This whole process is driven by the United States Census numbers from our most recent count. Understandably, many are worried that the COVID-19 health pandemic may have resulted in an undercount. Valid concerns or not, these are the numbers we have. They will be used to decide our representation at every level of government.

In looking at the initial map submitted by the IRC, we see that Milwaukee County is now roughly 50% white and 50% minority. Its map consists of 18 districts that breakout in this way: nine predominantly white districts, six predominantly Black districts, two predominantly Latino districts, and one toss up minority district. The Latino community saw the greatest population increase in the new census numbers, which resulted in the addition of newly created district. The Black community could actually lose one to two seats because of a change in the makeup of a couple of districts.

As a community, we can weigh-in and tell these governmental bodies what we want to see. However, we haven’t. I was stunned to learn that only 12 people, from the entire county had attended a virtual public meeting. In 2011, Republicans at the state level created a redistricting plan in secret. It was done to disenfranchise Democrats and ensure Republican majority rule. The result: more democrats voted in the state but we hold fewer legislative seats. This year, Gov. Tony Evers formed the People’s Maps Commission. It released maps for public comment through Thursday, Oct. 7. In order to have a redistricting process that is open to the public, transparent and non-partisan, we have to be pay attention and be engaged.

If you would like more information, please contact my office at 608-266-5810 or email sen.taylor@legis.wisconsin.gov.

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