In an attempt to create districts less divided by party lines, the Dane County Redistricting Committee recommends a group of non-elected residents take a larger role in the next redistricting process.

The citizen commission, comprised of either nine or 11 people, will include nonpartisan members of the community who do not have any direct link to the county government, Mark Hazelbaker, redistricting committee member, said.

The next redistricting would occur in 2021, after the completion of the U.S. Census in 2020. Population information from the census would then be used to redraw the districts in a way that distributes population as equally as possible, Hazelbaker said.

The Executive Committee of the Dane County Board of Supervisors formed the redistricting committee after Dane County voters overwhelmingly supported impartial, nonpartisan redistricting in 2014, Supervisor Jenni Dye, District 33, said in an email to The Badger Herald.

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In the past, Dane County officials have been directly involved in the process of redistricting, creating opportunities for gerrymandering — district lines that favor a particular political party, Hazelbaker said. By creating the redistricting committee, the county board showed they want to address the problems associated with this issue, he said.

“The county board wanted to address how legislative districts are drawn, but they also thought that doing this would make the board a good example for other legislative bodies out there,” Hazelbaker said.

If this recommendation is adopted by the county board, the resulting citizens committee would be in charge of getting public input, working with county staff as needed and putting out a map of the new districts, Dye said.

“This would improve the public’s faith in the process,” Dye said. “Voters overwhelmingly support an impartial process where they can be sure voters are choosing their supervisors, not that supervisors are choosing their voters by drawing the maps.”

Of the nine or 11 individuals on the commission, three would be from associations that represent local governments in Dane County, with the remaining six or eight selected by the county board chair and then screened to ensure they are nonpartisan, Hazelbaker said.

There are currently 37 board districts. At the time of the 2011 redistricting, each district had about 13,200 people, Dye said.

Changing this redistricting process to create more competition during elections and a fairer distribution will help give the power back to citizens, Dye said.

Dye said Wisconsin has experienced the negative effects of partisan influence in mapmaking at the state level, when Republican legislators drew lines to protect their party in secrecy.

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“It’s time for every level of government to ensure that doesn’t happen again in Wisconsin,” Dye said.

The idea of a citizen-led redistricting process is promising, and it has been successful in other regional governments, Hazelbaker said.

This citizen-led commission would serve as an experiment in order to see whether or not this process can be effective in Dane County, he said.

“This is a good experiment,” Hazelbaker said. “We haven’t tried it; we don’t know for sure that it’ll work. But I am reasonably optimistic that it has a chance.”