Dane County’s redistricting commission has begun its work, redrawing voter lines throughout the county, following the recent completion of the 2020 census count.
The 11-member, nonpartisan commission took part in two meetings with county staff this month.
Staff explained the role that commissioners would be playing in the decennial redistricting process, citing a 2016 amendment to the county’s code of ordinances that created the all-citizen body.
“The task of this commission is to submit at least three maps to the county board for consideration,” said senior planner Brian Standing, staff lead for the 2021 redistricting project. “We would also anticipate that the commission might recommend one of those three to the board.”
Standing shared the county’s redistricting timeline with members of the commission, noting that the county was behind schedule due to the U.S. Census Bureau extending its response deadline.
Residents were allowed three extra months to respond to the census due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Standing said the fall would be reserved for testing of software that commissioners as well as members of the public will use when proposing maps for the county’s new 37 supervisory districts.
“We want to make sure that that software works – and works well – before we do it for real,” Standing said. “So we’re going to do a trial run, hopefully next month. And we want the commission’s input on that. We want to make sure that they understand the process.”
The redistricting commission should then have a short break before work continues in the spring.
“April of 2021 is when things really start moving; that’s when the census comes out,” Standing said. “We get an early version of that in March. And by April or May, we really need to be in the process of considering maps, reviewing them, and submitting them to the board for consideration.”
Dane County Board intern Courtney Erdman explained the legal factors that commissioners would need to consider when drawing up new supervisory districts for the county.
She listed the six desired outcomes that have been identified in state statutes, in order of their priority.
“The map will represent the population size, minimize the number of municipal borders crossed, ensure fair and effective representation of the diverse ethnic and racial population, consider geography and natural boundaries, keep intact neighborhoods and communities of interest and association,” Erdman said, “and districts will be drawn without regard to incumbency.”
According to population estimates, each district should contain approximately 15,900 residents. The City of Madison is expected to have 17-18 districts, and Sun Prairie and Fitchburg two apiece.
All other municipalities would have one or less. The resulting map would remain in effect for the next 10 years.
“The map will remain unchanged until the next census,” Erdman said, “or until is required to be changed to permit the creation of districts of substantially equal population, or to ensure the participation of a racial or language minority group in the political process and their ability to elect representatives of their choice.”
The redistricting committee will meet again on Tuesday, Dec. 22.