Each decade, under state law, every local government must redistrict according to U.S. Census numbers.
State law gives the council a few months to come up with a plan after the official Census numbers are tabulated.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the city’s redistricting plan was finalized for the June 1 deadline, but the County did not. State law allows a one month grace-period.
The map approved by the city council takes into account the shift westward in population numbers, and in turn shifts many Districts westward.
With the shift, concerns about student representation on the city council have been raised especially in District 5, now represented by Ald. Tom Powell. The District still includes the dorms west of Babcock Avenue and the Eagle Heights neighborhood. District 5 also adds the Regent apartment building and the University Heights neighborhood. Verveer said he is especially concerned that with the addition of the historically politically active neighborhood may hurt the chances for a UW undergraduate to get elected in the fifth district.
“Students normally have a low turnout at the polls, and with the addition of a non-student neighborhood, students may get out-voted,” Verveer said.
However, Ald. Todd Jarrell, District 8, said he is unconcerned.
District 8 remains relatively unchanged on the new map, but District 4 no longer stretches the entire isthmus form lake to lake, shifting southward.
“District 5 may no longer be predominantly student, but there will still be a large percentage of students in that district,” Jarrell said. “And given that there are two other predominantly student districts and an additional district, the second, that will have a large percentage of students, I think we’re pretty well off.”
Even with the one month grace period, the County Board still has not approved a redistricting plan for its new ward boundaries. According to state law the council must approve both Dane County and City of Madison voting boundaries, but cannot pass its own till the board finishes its plans.
“Frankly the ball is totally in Dane County government’s court,” Verveer said. “The city’s redistricting plan is in holding waiting for the county to end their partisan bickering.”
Should the county fail to approve a plan before the July 1 deadline, the issue will be settled in Dane County District Court.
At the beginning of this month, County Executive Kathleen Falk vetoed a map approved by the board. Although state law requires city and county governments are non-partisan, Verveer said there are definite factions of conservatives and liberals on the board. And Verveer said each faction has a map that they want approved.