Common Council close to finalizing new aldermanic and voter ward maps

Aldermanic District 6, which includes Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, lost 10 percent of its population from 2010 to 2020. (File photo by Adam Carr)

With minimal opposition, the Milwaukee Common Council is on the verge of setting new voter limits that will remain in place for the next decade.

The maps, which set new boundaries for aldermen and electoral districts, are part of the redistribution process and include adjustments so that each area is as close to the population as possible.

The maps also determine what representation a population has for the next 10 years.

The changes to the map, made by the Legislative Reference Bureau with input from members of the Common Council, are subtle: a few blocks added here, some largely shaved there.

The redistribution process is repeated every 10 years when the new US census figures detect population shifts. Overall, the city lost residents from 2010 to 2020, falling from 577,000 in 2010 to 594,000, with most of that loss occurring on the north side.

Support Milwaukee NNS today

Aldermanic Districts 6 and 15 lost most of their residents and each lost more than 10 percent of their total population. Districts 3 and 4 on the East Side and the inner city, respectively, recorded slight increases in population, as did Districts 13 and 14 in the extreme south and the Southwest Side, respectively.

District 8th councilor JoCasta Zamarripa said the city has done a good job in the past drawing the maps to avoid gerrymandering and other issues that plagued the Milwaukee County’s redistribution process earlier this month.

The cards could already be approved by the entire Joint Council on Tuesday, November 23, according to Ald. Ashanti Hamilton. Hamilton said city guides followed several processes in creating maps in accordance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, including not packing minority voters into a small number of districts or distributing them into many districts.

They also tried to avoid significant roads and more than 10 percent population differences between the largest and smallest districts, he said.

The residents had the opportunity to look at the cards and give feedback a virtual town hall on Friday and during a special session of the Judiciary and Legislative Committee on Monday. Friday night’s public comment contained little opposition to the proposed cards.

Josh Zepnick, a former state lawmaker who twice ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Joint Council, was among the few who raised concerns. He said the maps for the 14th district cross several major streets and traditional neighborhood lines. He also criticized the process of getting city councils to contribute to the maps.

“They allow incumbents to choose their voters,” said Zepnick.

Hamilton said the process enabled those representing the neighborhoods to provide input.

“In this situation, something has to change so that the status quo is not an option,” said Hamilton. “If there is a suggestion how not to do this, maybe we can consider your suggestion.”

Other residents feared that some neighborhoods, including Merrill Park and parts of the 5 Points neighborhood, would be in new neighborhoods and lose relationships with their representatives.

“I am determined to work with Hamilton to make sure the needs of these residents are met,” said Ald in the 6th district. Milele Coggs on the changes affecting the 5-point neighborhood.

District 6 lost several blocks near Messmer High School from North 5th Street to North 8th Street to District 1, while it gained several blocks on West Capitol Drive near North 27th Street from District 7.

“Maybe the whole area down there has two Aldermanic candidates instead of just one,” said Coggs.

The redesign of the city maps went much more smoothly for the city than for the district. This process dragged on for over two months and revealed a deep division between the members of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors and also between the members of the Common Council and the district officials.

“Clear mistakes to the clear disadvantage of Latinos in the city,” said Zamarripa. She said that Milwaukee County’s District 15, in particular, was drawn in such a way that the Latinx electoral population was diluted.

Because the county must complete its redistribution process before the city can approve its cards, the Joint Council had a limited amount of time to approve the cards. It is a point that was not lost during City Hall Friday.

“County took up most of the timeline, so our time checking the board and county maps was limited,” said Hamilton.

Aside from the county and city maps, the state has yet to complete its reallocation process and redefine its congressional and legislative lines. This process was highly controversial and has led to gerrymandering claims.

Comments are closed.