In an effort to get politics out of the the process of redistricting, the Dane County Board has approved creation of an independent citizens commission to draw political boundaries after the 2020 census.
The new commission will be modeled after a method used for congressional and legislative district drawing in Iowa, according to a county press release. The Dane County process will use population, municipal boundaries, ethnic makeup and natural geographic features to establish its districts.
Individuals who are affiliated with a political party, lobbying group, labor union or other entities with a vested interest in drawing voting boundaries will not be allowed to serve on the nine-to-11-member commission.
Following the release of the 2020 census numbers, the Dane County Board chair and the county clerk will make appointments to establish the commission. The appointments will be subject to approval by the full Board, the Dane County Towns Association, the Dane County Cities and Villages Association and the City of Madison will have input into the appointments.
Once the commission is established, it will submit one to three maps to the Board for approval. If none of the proposed maps are approved, they will be re-referred to the commission, which will be able to amend and resubmit them.
The process could change the Board’s fifth district, which Supervisor Hayley Young represents. The district has traditionally been held by a student or recent graduate because it covers campus and Lake Mendota. Young voted to create the commission and noted the fifth district was changed slightly after the 2010 census.
“The aim of a citizen redistricting commission is to make sure that the people who live in the area are representing the district,” Young said. “We’re really doing the best that we can with what we have … we don’t have someone who is paid doing this.”
In 2013 a panel of three federal judges redrew two assembly districts, finding that the districts violated the voting rights of Latinos on the Southside of Milwaukee, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A federal lawsuit is also pending for that 2011 redistricting.
“Voters should feel confident that they get to select their elected officials, not the other way around,” Supervisor Jenni Dye of Fitchburg, who chaired a subcommittee that helped draft the new plan, said in the release. “This independent commission means that supervisors won't be the ones at the table drawing maps and selecting their voters.”
Dane County voters approved a 2014 advisory referendum to establish impartial, nonpartisan redistricting. The County Board then established a subcommittee to make recommendations for how to conduct the next mapping process, from which this commission was established.
There was only one vote against the commission’s creation. The ordinance amendment needs to be signed by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi before it becomes law.