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The controversy and delay surrounding Milwaukee County's redistricting process

Courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society

At every level of government the redistricting process isn’t easy. The creation of new maps can have a huge impact on who will lead our county, state, and country for the next decade. So it should come as no surprise that the process here in Milwaukee County has been controversial and fraught with delays.

The 2020 Census delays got the process off to a slow start, but it’s the controversy over the Independent Redistricting Committee’s first set of maps that has been the latest stumbling block for the process. This is the first time the committee has been involved in this process and the maps must be approved by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors before they can be finalized.

The deadline to confirm these maps is looming, as the deadline to publish election notices for the spring election is on Nov. 23rd.

Vanessa Swales has been covering the process for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Swales explains the importance of redistricting. "The aim is to make sure communities across a given area are equally and fairly represented," Swales says. "So ultimately, it really impacts a myriad of things, you know, at a county level, at a city level, and so the process itself will have an effect in multiple areas of people's daily lives for the next decade."

Swales says there's a lot of questions about whether the maps will have fair representation. A district could end up having a completely new representative based on the new drawings.

"Say for example, a majority Black district then had a white representative, because of this shift, and whether they're being represented properly, that would probably be the best way that I could describe it," Swales says.

The board has already rejected a proposed map once. From Swales perspective, the recent rejection could be because many incumbents in power are hesitant to agree to a map that might throw them out of power.

"The IRC can only present three proposals and after that, if the board does not adopt the third proposed draft maps, the board will develop, adopt a map without consulting the committee," Swales says.

Swales says that the proposal for the second map is moving forward and is being presented to the county board for review, but much is still up in the air.

"This Independent Redistricting Committee will possibly present a third map, which could potentially be rejected, just given the concerns that have been coming up, particularly as with county board input, or revision," Swales says. "And if that happens, it could have many delays at a city and county level, which is something that nobody wants."

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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