All of Madison’s alder districts need to have roughly the same population size. City staff and the Redistricting Committee armed with new census data are trying to make that happen. However, Alder Julia Bennett (district 8) is concerned that the proposed changes will crack the vote of UW-Madison students. The eighth alder district houses many UW-Madison students in the heart of downtown. Under the two proposed redistricting maps, large sections would be absorbed by the surrounding districts. Bennett says she’s concerned the changes will dilute the voice of UW students. “It is extremely vital to keep students together and within one district, because we understand each other, we take care of each other,” she says. “When one student faces a campus related issue it’s something that a majority of us face at the same time.”
City staff has released an interactive map with the current districts, census data, and the two proposed concepts. In response, Bennet suggests all student dorms as well as the Spring Street and College Court area remain in her district. Bennett says college students and their needs should be one of the staff’s top concerns. “I’ve gone over the maps myself and with former district eight and the downtown alders. I’ve made suggestions to staff as to how we can change the maps around to best meet the concerns of like the downtown area. Those concerns need to be taken into consideration when they make them up,” she explains. “So it’s not about, if it can be done, because it can be done. It’s about if staff and redistricting will do it.”
City Planner Ben Zeller says proposed changes to district 8 are a result of a population increase in all districts on the isthmus. “I think really ultimately we’ll end up with still a very solidly student oriented district, perhaps more than one. Although it might not take the same exact form as it does right now with district eight because of the population growth that has occurred there and elsewhere around campus. So, there’s a surgical friendly situation where very heavy student population right now in district eight. I think that’ll, that’ll continue to be the case, but we may or may not be able to accommodate. As part of these concepts, for example, including all of the UW dorms, within a single elder district just because they’re, they’re spread around the campus and they tend to generate very high population numbers.”
The city is aiming to even out current aldermanic districts, with the new districts representing about 13,700 people. That number comes from the 2020 census. The current range between districts is about 7,000 residents. Public comment is being considered by email, that’s email@example.com or by filling out a comment card at any of Madison’s public libraries by Tuesday. A public information session is happening now (6pm CST) on zoom. Information to join that conversation can be found here.
The city’s redistricting process should be complete by early November. Those plans will then head to the Dane County Board to adopt a district plan for its Board of Supervisors.