Pioneer Press: "Wisconsin Legislature: Committee
hears testimony on redistricting." January 11, 2002
Wisconsin residents urged the Legislature Thursday to keep communities intact as they redraw the state's congressional districts. *The Assembly's Committee on Census and Redistricting heard testimony Thursday on a plan fashioned by Wisconsin's U.S. representatives that would combine the city of Milwaukee into one congressional district. *Wisconsin's population did not grow as fast as other states in the 2000 census. Because of that, it will lose one of its nine congressional districts. *The congressional plan merges Democrat Tom Barrett's 5th District seat with Democrat Jerry Kleczka's 4th District. The two districts currently include portions of Milwaukee and the surrounding suburbs. *Barrett is running for governor rather than for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives. *All nine representatives support the plan, which the Assembly committee will vote on Tuesday, said committee chairwoman Rep. Bonnie Ladwig, R-Mount Pleasant. *Sheboygan Alderman Carl Toepel said lawmakers should keep Sheboygan County and other counties intact, since that helps reduce confusion about political boundaries. *"Please, wherever you can keep government units together in one district, do it," Toepel said. "I want government close to the people, so that the people on a certain street don't say, "OK, I'm in this district, but you're in another district."" *Barbara White, of the African American Coalition for Empowerment, said she was pleased that Milwaukee will be represented by one person in Congress. But the group would prefer to have the district include northern suburbs such as Glendale, Brown Deer and Shorewood rather than some of the city's southern suburbs. *The northern suburbs are "older suburbs that are experiencing the same changes that Milwaukee is experiencing: dropping property tax values, lack of growth in population, crime, poverty," White said. *Residents of those suburbs should be linked with city residents who have the same interests, she said. *"Our community is in dire need of resources and people who are going to get elected and get things done for our community," White said. *Troy Thomas, of Chippewa Falls, said he had similar concerns about his area. The map drawn by the congressional delegation would have the nearby cities of Eau Claire in one district and Chippewa Falls in another. *That would reduce the voting power of the area, he said. *"This is not a matter of partisan politics but of fair representation," he said. *State law requires that new congressional districts be approved by legislators and signed into law before they can take effect. That needs to be done by May 1, so candidates can file nomination papers in the new districts prior to the fall elections. *If the Legislature cannot agree on a redistricting plan, the issue could end up in the courts. *A panel of federal judges in November took jurisdiction and said lawmakers must show progress on congressional reapportionment by Feb. 1 or risk having the court draw new boundaries. *Brady Williamson, a lawyer for Democrats who filed the federal lawsuit, said Thursday the plaintiffs, including former Gov. Tony Earl, support the map drawn by Wisconsin's nine U.S representatives. *Meanwhile, state Republicans filed a motion Monday asking that the state Supreme Court be responsible for drawing new boundaries of state legislative districts.
Two state legislators from Milwaukee said Thursday that the city deserves two seats, not one, in Congress, and they blasted their congressman, fellow Democrat Tom Barrett, for supporting a redistricting plan that eliminates one Milwaukee seat. *State Reps. Annette Polly Williams and Johnnie Morris-Tatum said Barrett had abandoned them by endorsing a redistricting plan offered by the state's nine members of Congress. And they said it would cost him votes in the governor's race in the fall. *While they had no alternative plan in hand, Williams and Morris-Tatum said they would fight to keep two House seats for Milwaukee, which has had two representatives in Congress since 1892. *Wisconsin is losing a seat because of its slow-growing population. Given Milwaukee's declining population and Barrett's decision to run for governor this fall, the plan merges his north side district with one on Milwaukee's south side, represented by Democrat Jerry Kleczka. *"If Tom Barrett were still running (for Congress), do you think we would be having this discussion? We would not," Williams said. She said two other incumbents, Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Madison and Republican Paul Ryan of Janesville, would be forced into one district. *"But because we have no one standing up, speaking up in Milwaukee, our congressman has another interest and he was not in there fighting for us. It's all right, here again, stick it to Milwaukee," Williams said. *Abandoning minorities? *Morris-Tatum also expressed disappointment in Barrett, whom she said the minority community helped get elected and re-elected. *"I feel very abandoned by the fact that he is a supporter of this plan that disenfranchises the north side of Milwaukee, his base of support, that he's going to have to come to again to ask for votes for the governorship," she said. *With Barrett running for governor, the two said a black or Hispanic candidate could win election to Congress if Milwaukee were to retain two House seats. *"If you want to talk about minority, African-American, people of color having influence, this is an opportunity for us now to demonstrate that influence, that we can run in that vacant seat," Williams said. "We will have a vacant seat. We'll have a primary." *Barrett admits frustration *Reached for comment while campaigning in the Eau Claire area, Barrett said he also wanted Milwaukee to keep two seats. But based on the numbers alone, its declining population wouldn't allow it, he said. He also said redistricting was the Legislature's job, and if state lawmakers somehow can preserve two House seats in Milwaukee, he would support the plan. *"I am as frustrated as anyone that we don't have two seats in Milwaukee," Barrett said. "But the reality is that the population shrunk." *Barrett said the 5th District that he now represents has roughly 504,000 residents, close to 170,000 short of the figure needed for a new district. Based on the 2000 census, the eight new districts each should have a population of 670,459 for equal representation. *"I'm very cognizant and sensitive to the concern for having a minority representative," he said. "But at the same time, the numbers aren't lying. We had to add 175,000. This goes back to the fact that we lost the seat. That's the problem." *Barrett said the proposed single Milwaukee district retains 60% of his old district and the bulk of the minority population. *Deadline looms *Williams and Morris-Tatum vented their frustration in an interviewing after a hearing held by the Assembly Census and Redistricting Committee on the congressional plan. *They said they had asked state Rep. Bonnie Ladwig (R-Racine), committee chairwoman, to hold another hearing in Milwaukee, but Ladwig said that the schedule wouldn't allow it now and that a committee vote was needed Tuesday to get the bill to the Assembly floor Jan. 22. *Every 10 years, after the federal census is completed, the state Legislature is charged with drawing new boundaries for legislative and congressional districts. *Lawmakers began work on redistricting with a federal court, and potentially the state Supreme Court, looking over their shoulders. *A three-judge federal panel had set a Feb. 1 deadline for action and just this week put more pressure on the Legislature to draw new boundaries. On Monday, the panel set aside the deadline and expedited proceedings to ensure new legislative and congressional districts set for the fall elections. *Although the elections are months away, filing deadlines for candidates are fast approaching. On June 1, candidates will begin circulating nomination papers in the new districts, and they should know the boundaries well before that, said Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the state Elections Board. *Also Monday, Republican lawmakers in the Legislature asked the state Supreme Court to take jurisdiction over Assembly and Senate redistricting if the Legislature fails to do it and the federal court lets go of that task.
A redistricting plan that would trim Wisconsin's congressional seats from nine to eight has been introduced in the state Legislature. *The plan was formulated by the state's nine U.S. representatives, said state Rep. Bonnie Ladwig, R-Mount Pleasant, the chairwoman of the Assembly and Census and Redistricting Committee, which introduced the measure Tuesday. *Because Wisconsin's population did not grow as fast as other states according to 2000 census data, its congressional seats have been reduced. *State law requires that new congressional districts be approved by legislators and signed into law before they can take effect. That needs to be done by May 1, so candidates can file nomination papers in the new districts prior to the fall elections. *The plan merges Democrat Tom Barrett's 5th District seat with Democrat Jerry Kleczka's 4th District. *State Sen. Gwendolynne Moore, D-Milwaukee, said the plan puts Milwaukee's minorities into one district, while growing minority populations and Democrat-leaning populations in some suburbs are placed in Republican strongholds. *Ladwig disagrees, saying minorities will represent about half of the new Milwaukee district, a number that both current Milwaukee districts don't come near. *"As I understand it, the plan maximizes Milwaukee's minority voting strength in accordance with the federal Voting Rights Act," she said. *Ladwig's panel will hold a public hearing on the plan today in the state Capitol. Committee action on the plan is expected next week, and it could be ready for an Assembly vote this month.
Turning the tables, Wisconsin's congressmen and congresswoman are choosing their voters. House members from our state have reached bipartisan agreement on new congressional districts that, first and foremost, look after No. 1 - enhancing their already excellent chances for re-election. *The question now is: Does their proposed map also serve the public's interest? On that score, there are some reasons for worry. *For one thing, the map splinters Milwaukee County among three representatives - a division that fails to promote the metropolitan perspective helpful in tackling many domestic issues, such as transportation and housing. *For another, in making some districts politically safer for incumbents - that is, more heavily Republican or Democratic - the proposal encourages a national trend of less rivalry within districts between parties. That trend, in turn, has helped fuel the political polarization in the House and the decline in the number of moderate voices. *The Wisconsin Legislature, charged with putting together a map, shouldn't rubber-stamp the House members' proposal. State lawmakers should try to come up with a better plan. To better serve the public good, they also should think long term and explore changing how Wisconsin makes political maps. Other states have tried commissions, both bipartisan and non-partisan, with some success. Iowa entrusts the job to a respected state agency. *What worked elsewhere might work here. It's too late to change the process this time, but it's not too late - or too early - to reform the process for the next round of redistricting, which will follow the 2010 census. *Wisconsin's allotment of congressional seats fell from nine to eight as a result of population shifts recorded in the 2000 census. As it happens, one of Wisconsin's nine House members won't be returning: Tom Barrett, a Milwaukee Democrat, is running for governor instead. The remaining eight got together to come up with a map that best ensures their return. *Perhaps the most salient change is that the proposed map unites the city of Milwaukee, which had been split between Barrett and fellow Democrat Jerry Kleczka. Besides the city, the proposed 4th District includes five southern suburbs: West Allis, West Milwaukee, St. Francis, Cudahy and South Milwaukee. *The rest of the county, however, becomes the edges of two other districts - which means these county areas may not get the attention they deserve. What's more, the plan lops off the expansion of the black community into the northern suburbs. The growth is mostly among middle-class African-Americans, from whom political leadership springs. The proposed map maroons that expanding middle class from its ethnic base in the city. *Mirroring a national trend toward safer districts, the new 4th would be more solidly Democratic than Kleczka's current district. *Robust elections - with results so close that the winners ignore the losing sides at their own peril - better serve democracy, which is one good reason state lawmakers should attempt to produce a better map for November 2002 and the rest of this decade. For the future, they should work for a better procedure to design these political maps - a procedure that recognizes the conflict of interest elected officials have in picking their voters.
A congressional redistricting plan that reduces the number of Wisconsin seats in the House of Representatives from nine to eight was introduced Tuesday in the state Legislature. *The plan reflects a congressional redistricting plan drafted and approved by the state's nine U.S. representatives, said state Rep. Bonnie Ladwig (R-Mount Pleasant), chairwoman of the Assembly and Census and Redistricting Committee. *State law requires that newly organized congressional districts must be approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor before they can take effect. That needs to be done byMay 1 so candidates can file nomination papers in the new districts prior to the fall elections. *Rep. Greg Huber (D-Wausau), a member of the redistricting committee, said the delegation submitted a thoughtful plan to the Legislature. "It takes into account the many complications that develop when having to lose an entire congressional seat," Huber said, calling the plan "fair and equitable." *Concerns have been raised about how the plan - which merges Democrat Tom Barrett's 5th District seat with Democrat Jerry Kleczka's 4th District - puts the City of Milwaukee into one congressional district. *State Sen. Gwendolynne Moore (D-Milwaukee) complained the plan packs racial minorities into one district, while growing minority populations and Democrat-leaning populations in some North Shore suburbs are placed in Republican strongholds. *But Ladwig defended the plan. *"Minorities will represent approximately 50% of the people in that district," she said, noting that if Milwaukee were split in two, minorities would not represent anywhere near half of the population of either district. *"As I understand it, the plan maximizes Milwaukee's minority voting strength in accordance with the federal Voting Rights Act," Ladwig added. *Ladwig's panel will hold a public hearing on the plan at 10 a.m. Thursday in room 412-East of the State Capitol. Committee action on the plan is expected next week, and it could be ready for a floor vote in the Assembly this month.
Raising the possibility of a legal tug-of-war on redistricting, a lawyer for Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen and other Republicans in the Legislature asked the state Supreme Court on Monday to enter the fray. *Madison lawyer James Troupis asked the Supreme Court to draw new Assembly and Senate district boundaries if state lawmakers can't do the job themselves, and he made the request despite a redistricting case pending in federal court. *Also Monday, U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert, presiding over a hearing in Milwaukee on the federal redistricting suit, increased pressure on the state Legislature to get moving on drawing new boundaries. *Clevert removed a Feb. 1 deadline a three-judge panel previously had set for action by the state Legislature. In doing so, he expedited legal proceedings, stating the three-judge panel would address new congressional district boundaries first, then new Assembly and Senate district lines. *After filing his petition with the state Supreme Court, Troupis appeared before Clevert and informed the judge of his request before the state high court. However, he filed no motion asking the three-judge federal panel to yield on state redistricting. Troupis said that would come later. *However, Mike Wittenwyler, a Madison lawyer representing one group of Democratic litigants in the federal lawsuit, said Clevert did not appear willing to defer to the state court. *"He didn't let go of state legislative redistricting," Wittenwyler said. "He gave no indication that it was something they were contemplating giving up." *Added Wittenwyler: "Quite frankly, I think we heard strong words from this judge, the importance of timing, the importance of getting something done now, rather than later." *The developments come in a lawsuit filed last year by former Gov. Tony Earl and 16 other Democrats who saw "no reasonable prospect for a timely redistricting" of congressional districts, given the partisan split in the Legislature. *At issue is a political battle that surfaces every 10 years as lawmakers review new census data and set new state legislative and congressional boundaries to ensure equal representation. *Deadline is looming *A lawyer for the state Elections Board, Assistant Attorney General Tom Balistreri, told Clevert the board doesn't care whether the courts or the Legislature drew new maps for congressional and legislative districts, as long as both are done by May 1. Candidates in the fall elections are supposed to begin circulating nomination papers on June 1. To do so, they must know the new district boundaries. *So far, only a proposed map for new congressional districts has surfaced, an agreed-upon, bipartisan plan offered by Wisconsin's congressional delegation for the Legislature's approval when it returns to Madison on Jan. 22. *The court's decision to withdraw the deadline and expedite proceedings on redistricting surprised Rep. Bonnie Ladwig (R-Racine), chairwoman of the Assembly Committee on Census and Redistricting, whose committee is holding a hearing on the congressional plan on Thursday. *Wisconsin is losing a House seat because it has grown in population at a slower rate than other states. *The map offered by the senior congressional delegates, Democrat David Obey and Republican James Sensenbrenner, collapses two Milwaukee districts into one, leaving the city with one House seat for the first time since 1892. *Ladwig said the plan would be introduced today. She said she withheld it until now because she was seeking co-sponsors. A total of 82 legislators, 68 state representatives and 14 senators, added their names to the bill. *Gridlock likely? *Even if one were introduced, Wittenwyler said, the crucial point is whether it will pass both houses, noting the Legislature's propensity for gridlock with Jensen (R-Town of Brookfield) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (D-Madison) at loggerheads. *Clevert said the congressional reapportionment trial would be in March or April. The legislative reapportionment trial would be about seven days later, he said. *The judge scheduled another status conference for Jan. 29.
A congressional redistricting plan unveiled Thursday would leave Milwaukee with one seat instead of two in the House of Representatives and split Milwaukee County three ways. *The map, the first to surface in the redistricting battle ahead, was presented as the plan of the state congressional delegation. But it came under fire from some state lawmakers who represent Milwaukee. *Wisconsin is expected to drop from nine to eight House seats because it has not grown in population as much as other states have. Milwaukee has lost population and, based on the numbers, appears all but certain to forfeit one of its two House seats. *Under the plan, the 5th District represented by Democrat Tom Barrett, who is running for governor, would be merged with the 4th District represented by Democrat Jerry Kleczka. *Two Republicans, F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Menomonee Falls and Paul Ryan of Janesville, would see their districts expand into Milwaukee County. Sensenbrenner's district would gain Wauwatosa, part of West Allis and North Shore suburbs; Ryan's district would include the area of Greenfield, Franklin and Oak Creek. *With the loss of one seat and Barrett's decision to run for governor, the plan avoids merging two districts and pitting one incumbent against another. Under one scenario suggested last year, Milwaukee would keep both seats if the districts of Ryan and Madison Democrat Tammy Baldwin were combined. *Veteran House Democrat Dave Obey of Wausau said the plan "does not represent anybody's first choice" and in fact costs the Democratic Party a seat. But Obey said that a plan splitting Milwaukee into two would dilute the voting strength of ethnic and racial minorities in the city and therefore invite a court challenge. *Kleczka, who would run for re-election in a combined city district, also defended the plan. *"There was no avoiding it," he said. "For those who still want the city cut into two, that's totally impossible now." *For Kleczka, the shift to a single seat that includes all Milwaukee means that if re-elected, he would have significant new constituencies. *Most notable among them would be the overwhelming majority of the state's African-American population. Kleczka's current district is 87% white, just over 2% black and just over 2% Asian, according to the Almanac of American Politics. It is also nearly 13% Hispanic. *Barrett's district is 43% African-American. Kleczka's new district would have a smaller percentage of African-Americans - about 34%, he said - mostly because the new House districts, being eight instead of nine, have to grow in population. *But it's still a huge change in the demographics of Kleczka's constituency, which has been anchored by the south side, a traditionally white, working-class and heavily Catholic enclave, with an emerging Hispanic population. The new Milwaukee district would be roughly half minority, including Asians, Hispanics and American Indians. *Kleczka contended that the proposed district would not be terribly different "philosophically" from his current district. He also said both districts placed him in the role of advocating for Milwaukee. *"Based on the philosophical bent, I would be a real good fit for these new constituencies," said Kleczka, who said he has started meeting with community groups from the north side. *"I think we just have a lot in common. When you seek funding for the Milwaukee school system for after-hours school programs, that affects not only the south side, but also the north side." *As for potential primary challenges from African-Americans, Kleczka said, "I've heard rumors of a couple of black north siders thinking of running, and that's fine." *But assuming that Kleczka can defeat any challengers within his party - and he would be a huge favorite - he would inherit a district that is far safer in a general election because it is overwhelmingly Democratic. His existing district, taking in suburbs to the south and west, actually favored Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential race, 50% to 46%. *State lawmakers are laboring under a federal court order to show some progress on redistricting by Feb. 1, or else a three-judge panel will start drawing boundaries for congressional and legislative districts. *State Rep. Bonnie Ladwig (R-Racine), chairwoman of the Assembly Census and Redistricting Committee, said her committee would hold a public hearing on the plan Thursday in Madison. She said she hoped both houses of the Legislature could pass it and get it on Gov. Scott McCallum's desk for his signature by the court deadline. *Obey said he hoped a court challenge could be avoided. "I don't think there's any need for it to end up in court," he said. *And he said: "There will undoubtedly be people who argue about details, but that's always the case. I think it's a fair plan. It basically has required Democrats to recognize something we didn't want to recognize, which is the city is going to have to be put together, and once you do that, the argument is pretty much over." *Swift action in the state Senate appears unlikely, however. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (D-Madison) was unavailable for comment, but aide Mike Browne said the plan would be treated as would any other bill. *"Ladwig's office seems to be representing that this is the congressional plan," Browne said. "I wish the congressionals would be the ones to confirm whether or not this is in fact what they like." *Even if it's what House incumbents want, Browne noted, concerns have been raised in Milwaukee over the loss of a seat. *Although Milwaukee would lose a seat under the plan, Ladwig said the proposal would meet federal guidelines on redistricting. *"Milwaukee has shrunk enough that you can get all of the city into one congressional district," she said. "Plus, with the fair voting act for minorities, by having one district, they would be able to have the opportunity to elect a minority representative. If you split it in two - go south and north - the chances of them electing a minority from the city would be pretty slim." *A spokesman for state Sen. Gary George (D-Milwaukee) dismissed Ladwig's comments. *"She's dead wrong," Dave Begel said. "Milwaukee's a city of incredible diversity. This is a city with a strong north side and a strong south side. Both have populations that are growing. There's an African-American population on the north side and a largely Hispanic population on the south side. These communities do not have all similar interests. They deserve their own representation." *George was unavailable for comment. *Mordecai Lee, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor of political science who served in the state Senate, described the proposal as an incumbent protection plan that packed minorities in one Milwaukee district. *"The Republican Party cynically believes in packing minorities," he said. "Packing minorities means that by creating a 99-percent Democratic seat with lots and lots of people of color, then they won't bother Republicans. It maximizes Republicans' advantage by packing minorities."
The coming change in boundaries of Wisconsin's congressional districts could move Rep. Paul Ryan's Janesville address out of his district. *But Ryan, a Republican who has served the district since 1998, says he won't move from his home city to stay in the 1st District, as some have suggested. *Redistricting proposals now in the works are aimed at equalizing the populations of the state's various districts based on the 2000 census. Wisconsin will have eight districts instead of nine, with one of Milwaukee's districts being split up because of the state's relatively slow population growth compared with other states. *A likely change would have Rock County split between the 1st and 2nd districts. *Ryan's 1st District would get the eastern part of the county and Janesville. The 2nd District, represented by Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Madison, would cover the western part of the county and Beloit. *The 1st District now includes all of Rock County and runs east to Racine and Kenosha counties. *"I'm trying to keep the whole county," Ryan said this week. "The problem is we're losing a seat. When you lose a seat, you have to redraw the map. When you redraw the map, you have to follow the population flow." *The new maps of congressional and legislative districts will be approved either by the Legislature or, if lawmakers can't get the job done in a timely fashion, by the federal courts. They are to be in place in time for next fall's elections. *In the state's House delegation, Democratic Rep. David Obey and Republican Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. have proposed a working redistricting map and asked other incumbents for their opinions. *Ryan said the first map he saw would put all of Rock County into the 2nd District. "Both sides tried to get me to leave Janesville," Ryan said, but he said no. *A map now being discussed would move the east-west border between the 1st and 2nd districts from the middle of Green County to about the middle of Rock County, said Ryan, who is the fifth generation of his family to be born and raised here. *Ryan said he is faced with the choice of endorsing a map that splits Rock County or hoping to keep all of the county in a court fight over redistricting. *He said he would prefer having the Legislature approve the map, with Janesville staying in the 1st District, rather than gambling on having the courts decide on a redistricting plan. *Some observers contend that putting Beloit in the 2nd District would benefit Baldwin because the city consistently votes Democratic, but Ryan noted that he won Beloit in both of his elections. *Also, under the Obey-Sensenbrenner map, he would pick up predominantly Republican Waukesha.
State officials are setting up computer stations at 16 University of Wisconsin System campuses to give residents and interest groups the chance to create their own maps of how they would like Wisconsin political districts redrawn. *"The thing that many people tend to forget about redistricting is that at some level, it affects everybody," said Pete Cannon, a senior legislative analyst for the Legislative Reference Bureau. "How you are represented affects your ability to be heard in the Legislature or Congress." *The computer programs are expected to be running by the end of January and will allow people to "pull together a map of their perfect universe," Cannon said Thursday, testifying before the Senate Organization Committee. The bureau still needs to collaborate with campus officials to decide where the programs will be located. *The Legislature is required to redraw legislative and congressional districts every 10 years based upon the results of the federal census. Wisconsin will lose a congressional seat and has to divide the state into eight congressional districts, each with about 670,000 people. *Each state Assembly district has to be roughly the same size, about 54,000 people, and three Assembly districts make up one Senate district. *If the Legislature can't devise a plan that wins approval from Gov. Scott McCallum, it will be up to the courts to redraw the districts. Federal judges have said they would not step in until at least Feb. 1 to give state lawmakers a chance to make progress on redistricting. *The state will pay the $100 licensing fee for each Geographic Information Systems compact disc that will be used at the 16 campuses. Anyone can buy the system from the state for $100, Cannon said. *Craig Thompson, legislative director of the Wisconsin Counties Association, said it's a program that his group would likely investigate. *"If it's good enough for the state, it certainly seems like something we should look at," he said. "We might as well use the most current technology available." *The new redistricting technology has greatly improved the efficiency of the process, Cannon said. *Twenty years ago, it took three people about eight hours to map out the 99 Assembly districts using large-sheet maps. Now, one person can do it in hours on the computer. *The technology also has helped smaller units of government. *Before redistricting in 1992, about 60% of municipalities had agreed upon the boundaries for aldermanic and supervisory wards. This time, about 99% of municipalities have completed that process, Cannon said. *Monroe and Forest counties are still tied up in court on how their wards will be drawn, he said.
Legislators should keep cities and towns intact when drawing new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts, speakers told a Senate committee Wednesday. *Voters and representatives can be confused when neighborhoods are split by political lines, said Washington County Board chairman Ken Miller. *"Voters are never sure who to call," he said. *Racine County Clerk Joan Rennert said it can be tough for representatives to be attentive to small wards. She said cities have different concerns than towns or villages. *The Senate Organizational Committee heard public testimony about the Legislature' s plans to redraw district boundaries. The lines are redrawn with new U.S. Census data every 10 years to keep up with population changes. *Wisconsin' s congressional redistricting is expected to be challenging because it will now have eight districts instead of nine. *Federal judges said state lawmakers must show progress on mapping new boundaries by Feb. 1 or courts could step in, as they did 10 years ago. *Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison, said the Legislature has succeeded in redrawing congressional districts in the past but previously failed in drawing new legislative districts. *Census numbers show that Milwaukee could lose one of its two representatives in Congress. Each new congressional district will have about 670, 000 people, more than Milwaukee' s current population of about 597, 000. *Barbara White of Milwaukee' s African-American Coalition for Empowerment said a congressional district encompassing the whole city of Milwaukee and northern suburbs would accurately reflect the city' s population. *"People of color voting populations in the city have in fact grown," White said. She attributed population changes to "white flight," or whites moving out of the city to suburbs. "We should not be penalized for that loss of population." *Legislators must make new districts conform to the federal Voting Rights Act, which aims to protect minority voting influence. Milwaukee' s population is about 55 percent minority. *Democrats Gerald Kleczka and Tom Barrett currently represent Milwaukee in Congress. Barrett is running for governor and will not seek re-election to Congress.
Making one congressional district out of Milwaukee would give the city's minority population more voting strength, the Assembly's redistricting committee was told Wednesday. *The Assembly Census and Redistricting Committee took testimony about redistricting at a public hearing as it started work on its plan to redraw new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts, done after a new census every 10 years to account for population changes. *Congressional redistricting is expected to be especially difficult this time because Wisconsin is dropping from nine districts to eight. *The census numbers indicate Milwaukee could lose one of its two representatives in Congress. Each redrawn congressional district will have about 670,000 people, while Milwaukee's population has dropped to about 597,000. *State Rep. Scott Walker, R-Wauwatosa, said lawmakers have two options: make the city one congressional district, or keep the city split but enlarge the districts to encompass more outlying areas. *U.S. Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., wrote a letter to the committee saying he favors one congressional district in Milwaukee because the other option would dilute the voting strength of the city's minorities, a potential civil rights violation. *New congressional and legislative maps must comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, which seeks to protect minority voting influence in districts. The city's population is about 55 percent minority. *"I have reached this conclusion most reluctantly because from a partisan standpoint the interests of my party would be best served by coming to a different conclusion," Obey wrote. "As you know, in the end our personal and our political preferences must yield to requirements of law." *Two Democrats, Gerald Kleczka and Tom Barrett, currently represent Milwaukee in Congress. *Obey and U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., are working toward a new congressional map to present to the Legislature for approval. *The Assembly and Senate must pass the same redistricting plan, which Gov. Scott McCallum also must approve for the plan to become law. Otherwise, the courts will decide. *Barbara White, president of the African American Coalition for Empowerment, urged committee members to put politics aside and do what's best for the city, which she said is one congressional district. *Lawmakers "cannot take the lives of people and use them as pawns in a political game," she said. *State Rep. Bonnie Ladwig, R-Racine, said that she supported the recommendation by Obey because splitting Milwaukee into two larger congressional districts would weaken the minority population's influence. *Milwaukee County Executive F. Thomas Ament said he supports having the city split in the middle because it would give the county greater representation. "It's the way it's historically been," he said. *The committee's two members representing Milwaukee, Democratic Reps. Johnnie Morris-Tatum and Polly Williams, said they needed more information to form an opinion on the issue. *Federal judges told Wisconsin lawmakers they must show progress on redistricting by Feb. 1 or risk having the court draw new lines for congressional and legislative districts. *Ladwig said the committee plans to have a proposal by mid-January, when it hopes to have another public meeting. The Senate Organization Committee will have a redistricting hearing Dec. 12 in Milwaukee.
Legislators should be able to agree on a plan to redraw Wisconsin's political boundaries by a Feb. 1 deadline imposed by a panel of federal judges, a Republican lawmaker said Thursday. *The judges issued a 2-1 decision in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee that lawmakers must show progress on reapportionment by Feb. 1 or risk having the court draw new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts, based on the 2000 census. *Rep. Bonnie Ladwig, R-Racine, said the census and redistricting committee she chairs will hold a hearing next week in Milwaukee to begin work on the Assembly's proposal to redraw the lines. She said she believed the Assembly could have a plan approved when it meets again in late January and early February. *New legislative and congressional boundaries are drawn up after the census every 10 years to reflect shifts in the state's population. Each district is required to have roughly the same number of people. The next congressional and legislative elections are next fall. *The judges' decision was in response to a lawsuit filed by former Gov. Tony Earl and 16 fellow Democrats who said they saw "no reasonable prospect for a timely redistricting" of congressional districts, given the partisan split in the Legislature. The Democrats urged the court to draw the boundaries even before the Legislature took up the issue. *The suit was filed against the state Elections Board, its members, Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, R-Waukesha, and Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer, R-West Bend. *Michael May, an attorney representing the Democrats, said they would not try to appeal the decision. *Jensen spokesman Steve Baas said Republicans were happy with the decision because it meant the judges were willing to give the "Legislature time to do its work." *Congressional reapportionment is expected to be especially difficult this time because Wisconsin is dropping from nine districts to eight. *U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Menomonee Falls, said he and U.S. Rep. David Obey, D-Wausau, were working toward a new congressional map to present to the Legislature for approval. *An aide said Thursday that Sensenbrenner would not talk about specifics of the map until it was finished, and he did not know when that would be. *Obey did not return messages from The Associated Press seeking comment. *Mike Browne, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison, said the Senate would soon establish the process it will use for its proposal to redraw the lines. He said the judges' decision simply gives the Legislature some deadlines to work with. *"This provides a time line that everyone is now aware of, that if you're going to reach an agreement, here's when that has to happen by," Browne said. *Judge J.P. Stadtmueller, the senior district judge who was joined by Judge John W. Reynolds in the majority in the 2-1 decision, said the existing boundaries were unconstitutional because shifts in population resulted in unequal representation. *Although the primary election is not until September, he said the court could proceed with redrawing the boundaries before then because litigants had shown a real likelihood of harm, namely loss of equal representation. *Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the Wisconsin Elections Board, said candidates are supposed to be able to begin circulating nomination papers June 1 for next fall's congressional and legislative races. *"If someone wants to run for office, they need to know the boundaries beforehand," Kennedy said.
More than half of Wisconsin's 72 counties grew by more than 10 percent during the 1990s, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Milwaukee County, which shrunk by 19,111 people, was the only county to lose population during the decade. Neighboring Waukesha County, which grew by 56,052, and Dane County, which grew by 59,441 people, saw the largest jumps in total population in the 2000 Census. Census 2000 measured Wisconsin's resident population at 5,363,675, a 471,906 increase from 1990. Still, the state lost a congressional seat because its growth was lower than the 13.2 percent national increase and the 20 percent to 60 percent rise seen by some states in the South and West.
Results from this year's census, for the first time, include the number of people who indicate they are of more than one race or ethnicity. Wisconsin residents had the option of classifying themselves as white and black, Native American and Asian, or many other combinations. Nearly 67,000 Wisconsin residents identified themselves to the government as members of more than one race.
Three-fourths of Wisconsinites returned their census forms this year, one of the highest rates in the nation. Only Iowa, with a 76 percent rate, was higher. State lawmakers will use the data to redraw congressional and legislative districts. The redrawn state legislative districts will likely determine which parties control the Assembly and Senate. The federal government is releasing only raw figures to the states, not adjusted figures that supporters said could protect against an estimated net undercount nationally of 3.3 million people. Milwaukee city officials wanted the Census Bureau to use adjusted figures in hopes of boosting population figures.
The raw numbers released Thursday showed Milwaukee's population declined more than 30,000 from 1990 to 596,974 in 2000. Democrats and civil rights groups contend adjusting data offers a better representation of minorities and inner-city residents - segments of the population that tend to vote Democratic - in the redistricting process. Wisconsin joined a legal fight a decade ago to block adjusted figures for apportionment. Like this year, state officials argued then that Wisconsin would fare better under an actual count because it had the highest response rate in the nation. More detailed statistics will be released incrementally over the next two years, ranging in topics from poverty and income to immigration and same-sex-couple households.
A law firm hired by Assembly Republicans to handle a possible court fight over redrawing legislative district boundaries has refused requests to detail how it spent some of the $540,000 it has already received. Assembly Republicans agreed to pay the law firm of Michael Best & Friedrich $2.04 million over 17 months if the once-a-decade redistricting required after the national census turns into a court battle. Rep. Dave Travis, D-Madison, said Tuesday the law firm refused his request to detail how it's spent $46,000 of the money so far, saying it is not required to do so under the Wisconsin Public Records Law. It also declined a request from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for itemized legal expenses.
Brett Healy, chief of staff for Speaker Scott Jensen, R-Waukesha, wrote in a letter that disclosure of those details would compromise attorney-client privileged communications. ``Further, such additional information would also reveal client strategies and thereby compromise our position in pending and likely future litigation,'' Healy wrote in a letter dated March 6.
Travis criticized Republican leaders for hiring the law firm and refusing to detail how the money, which comes from the Assembly's account used to pay for salaries and supplies, is being spent. He said he doesn't buy the argument that it would violate attorney-client privilege because the matter hasn't turned into a legal issue yet. ``Nobody's drawn a map yet. There are no issues of contention yet. There are no briefs to be filed,'' Travis said.
The state uses population changes reflected in the latest census to redraw legislative and congressional district boundaries every 10 years in a process called reapportionment. The Legislature had no problem redrawing new boundaries for the state's nine congressional districts after the 1980 and 1990 population counts, but lawmakers could not agree on the legislative districts. A decade ago, the state spent about $527,600 on reapportionment.