The City of Madison is considering two plans to redraw district boundaries which would break up District 8, a district that has historically been occupied predominantly by UW-Madison students.
In both of the proposed plans, the Lakeshore dorms would instead be incorporated into District 5 with one of the plans additionally enveloping the Spring Street dorms and College Court neighborhood into District 5.
Some community members have raised concerns regarding the suggested division of District 8, claiming that the plans to redistrict will weaken the influence of students in local elections.
Scott Resnick, the former alder for District 8, believes that positions that student takes are not shared throughout neighboring districts. According to Resnick, District 5, which represents a large portion of the near-west side, is mainly comprised of young families who have vastly different policy concerns than students.
“If you think about the issues that students have and consider a community of interest, many similar issues that UW students face in one dormitory [are] faced across the board — issues with campus safety, with nightlife, with alcohol related issues with housing rights,” Resnick said. “Those are issues that, essentially, your students are certain [to be] unified around.”
Following the census every 10 years, the city redraws the districts to reflect the current population. Madison grew by 16% in the past decade with a majority of population growth taking place in the apartments constructed near State Street, East Washington Avenue and the Isthmus, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
If District 8 is redrawn, Resnick says that the concerns of students would be ignored by the Common Council, because they would make up a small percentage of that district.
“Students would make up, in some cases, a fairly small percentage of that representation to that overall district” Resnick said in an interview with The Daily Cardinal.
UW-Madison student and current District 8 Alder, Juliana Bennett, has acknowledged that district lines should be redrawn due to a greater population increase relative to other districts. Like Resnick, Bennett believes that the current proposals are ignoring the distinct needs of students.
“It is a disservice to students and surrounding neighborhoods to expect the District 5 alder, who has no relation to campus-related issues, to divide their time between the needs of these two incredibly different populations,” Bennett said in a blog post.
In her blog post, Bennett additionally stated that low voter turnout in District 8 should not be used as a justification for splitting up District 8.
“Claiming that students don’t vote and shouldn’t be represented by a like-minded student is akin to claiming any population that doesn’t vote shouldn’t receive equal representation,” Bennett said.
On Thursday, the redistricting committee will meet to consider public feedback on the proposed maps. The committee will vote on a map on Oct. 7.