La Crosse County Redistricting Committee considers voting map proposals

La Crosse County leaders moving forward with voting district map proposal, moves to public hearing Sept. 13

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – La Crosse County leaders are considering changes to voting districts that could affect where and who county residents vote for. This comes before the La Crosse County Board will vote on the proposals next week.

The census data is in, which means new proposals on voting districts at the state and local levels. La Crosse County leaders will vote on four proposals for new maps that will affect where people vote. These new lines are designed to give every community in the county equal weight. Districts are supposed to be relatively close in size so everyone’s vote carries the same value.

“What that doesn’t take into consideration is growth. In other words, five or six years down the road one district may have increased by thousands and some districts may have decreased somewhat,” said Joe Heim, former professor of political science at UW-La Crosse.

Heim said leaders try to draw lines that make it easier for county officials on voting day.

“The closer the boundaries of municipalities and existing city council districts and county board districts, the easier it is for the municipal clerks to deal with,” Heim said.

However, political controversy often brews based on how these lines are drawn. Heim said people only need a little history lesson to judge whether a district is gerrymandered.

The “Gerry-Mander” cartoon first appeared in the Boston Gazette, March 26, 1812. Governor Elbridge Gerry, Feared the Federalist Party would gain power in the 1812 election, Gerry consolidated Federalist voting strength in a salamander-shaped voting district.

“They drew a giant salamander,” Heim said. “And that’s actually where the word came from, the word gerrymandering.”

In other words, a district that increases the odds at the blackjack table.

Republican leaders in the County argue the La Crosse County Redistricting Committee has too many people with connections to one party.

“It’s pretty well dominated by people who have backgrounds that are more democratic than independent or republican,” Heim said.

However, Heim said these four proposals for the most part stay away from salamander-looking shapes. He said this process is supposed to set politics aside.

“The theory is you want people to vote for the person, not for the party,” Heim said. “That’s the way it was designed in the state of Wisconsin.”

Heim said unfortunately partisan politics have made it down to the grassroots level in politics. He said county officials should not draw lines that protect incumbents from losing their seats.

The map the committee chose Tuesday to send to the country board proposes increasing the county’s districts from 29 to 30. The map the redistricting committee selected will get a public hearing on Sept. 13. Then the La Crosse County Board will vote on it at its planning meeting. It would still need one final vote by the board at its meeting on Sept. 16.

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