At its meeting on Thursday, Dane County’s Board of Supervisors adopted tentative new district lines for county board seats.
Dane County’s new supervisory map is the result of months of work by a non-partisan redistricting commission. Earlier this month, that group put forward three map proposals to county leaders — and last night, Supervisors voted 32-2 to tentatively adopt one of those maps.
While several supervisors disagreed with the finer details of the map, many praised the process as an improvement over the county’s past redistricting efforts.
Supervisor Tim Kiefer said the county’s process should serve as a blueprint for state lawmakers, who are already duking out their redistricting battle in court.
“We are really an example to the state legislature, where they have lawsuits and it’s going to be a big fight, and it’s going to be a big mess,” Kiefer said. “And if they had adopted the system we adopted, that all would have been avoided.”
Governor Tony Evers established a non-partisan People’s Maps Commission last year, but that group can only recommend maps. The Republican-held legislature is under no obligation to consider those proposals.
Under Dane County’s model, the Redistricting Commission — on which no county supervisor serves — puts forward maps that the county board can vote up or down. County supervisors are essentially removed from the drafting process.
It’s the first time the county has used such a method for its decennial redistricting process, and Supervisor Ann Degarmo pointed out that it was one heck of an inaugural year for the redistricting commission.
“It was going to be an adventure no matter what, because this is the first time we’ve gone through this process,” she said. “But to do it in the midst of a pandemic, all virtual and also with a delayed census? I have an immense appreciation for the work you’ve all done in your process.”
Supervisor Yogesh Chawla also praised the commission’s efforts to adequately represent Dane County’s minority communities.
“These maps were made in such a way to maximize minority representation,” he said. “And when we look across the country, and what typically happens, maps are made to dilute minority power and dilute the status quo.”
But a few county supervisors raised concerns about the final map.
Supervisor Jeremy Levin criticized the public input process, arguing that the commission didn’t allow enough time for input and that the group didn’t adequately address concerns that the map fractured certain communities — like Madison’s Regent neighborhood.
Levin was one of two “no” votes opposing the map, alongside Supervisor Jeff Weigand.
“It’s definitely a shame that we’re stuck in the position we are — because it is the next ten years,” Levin said.
As exact results from the U.S. Census came late this year, the county was on a compressed timeline for redistricting.
According to Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, the board had to adopt a tentative map by Friday to stay on track for final adoption next month — which meant no time to send the map back to the commission for further revisions.
Supervisor Richelle Andrae, who voted in favor of the proposed map, said that next time around supervisors should include time to pass the map back to the commission.
“We can’t expect members of the public, clerks, to weigh in on fifty different maps that are coming up. People start paying attention at the end of this process,” Andrae said.
McDonell says that the map’s lines may be nudged slightly in the coming weeks, as the county reconciles it with aldermanic and ward districts in local towns and cities.
“Generally, these are very small. A few blocks, a few dozen people,” he said.
After those final adjustments are made, supervisors will adopt a final map next month.
Three supervisors — Shelia Stubbs, Tim Rockwell and Steven Peters — were excused from Thursday’s vote.