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Redistricting plan means changes for legislators and voters

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Gazette staff
July 17, 2011
— The Wisconsin Legislature is expected to vote this week on a proposal that would redraw boundaries for all 132 legislative districts.

The Republican-proposed changes would put four area Assembly representatives into new districts:


-- Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, would no longer live in the 45th Assembly District.


-- Steve Nass, R-La Grange, would no longer live in the 31st Assembly District.


-- Tyler August, R-Walworth, would live outside of the 32nd Assembly District.


-- Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, would no longer live in the 80th Assembly District.


The new state Senate lines would not put any area senators outside their current districts.


Republicans, who control both houses of the Legislature, drew the maps that they say are constitutional and deal with a growth in population of about 300,000 people over the past decade.


Democrats say they are unconstitutional because of the way they break up district boundaries. They say the maps put Democrats at a disadvantage.


The state Senate is expected to take up the redistricting plan Tuesday. The Assembly plans to vote on the maps Wednesday. Once passed by the Legislature, the maps go to Republican Gov. Scott Walker for his consideration.


The Gazette spoke with area representatives about the proposed district changes:


Rep. Joe Knilans, R-Janesville

Under the proposed redistricting, most of Janesville would be blanketed under the 44th Assembly district instead of the current setup, which includes few other district lines meandering through the geographic fringes of the city.


Knilans said he likes the redistricting proposal because he believes it would cut down on confusion for residents.


“The people in Janesville would basically have one representative,” he said.


Knilans said he now gets calls from people who live in the 43rd Assembly District, which is represented by Evan Wynn, R-Whitewater.


“I have to tell them, ‘You’re not in my district,’ and then refer them to Evan’s number. This will help them out,” Knilans said.


Knilans said he doesn’t believe that the overall redistricting plans favor Republican lawmakers over Democrats.


“There’s a lot of Republicans who are paired next to each other who would have to either move or run against each other in a primary to determine who is going to get a seat,” Knilans said.


He pointed to Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, who now represents the 45th Assembly District but would be living in the 31st Assembly District under the proposed district changes.


Knilans said Loudenbeck would either have to move to keep her current seat, or stay put and later run in a primary against a few other Republican challengers whose adjacent seats also are affected by shifting district lines.


Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville

Cullen was elected last fall to represent a Senate district that covers most of Rock County and a corner of Walworth County. The proposed changes would shift the 15th Senate District to the west and north, adding pieces of three other counties, for a total of five.


Cullen said it looks as though he will lose about 35,000 constituents in southeast Rock County and Walworth County’s Richmond Township, but he’ll pick up new constituents in Green, Dane and Jefferson counties.


Cullen said he’s trying to get a more detailed map to be sure of what happens in Beloit, which he now represents. The new map splits the city. Similarly, it looks as though he is picking up a portion of the village of Oregon, but the map is not clear.


Cullen said it doesn’t look as though the Republicans changed the district with the incumbent Democrat in mind, although he hasn’t analyzed the changes in depth. He suspects the main reason was to help freshman Republicans Evan Wynn and Amy Loudenbeck, who now represent two of the three Assembly districts that make up the 15th Senate.


Cullen noted that for the next 18 months he’ll represent the current 15th District, but he becomes the senator of about 40,000 new constituents in Green, Dane and Jefferson counties starting in 2012.


Those new constituents will see the changes coming, he said, and the effect will be that he’ll be representing an extra-large district for the next year and a half, not that he’s complaining.


Normally, the map is changed in the spring of the election year, Cullen said, but Republicans want to solidify power now, before recall elections in August. Those elections could shift control of the Senate back to the Democrats, and that would mean the two parties would have to negotiate the changes.


Cullen expects the Republican majority and the governor to approve the new map before the recall elections.


Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton

Erpenbach will remain in his 27th Senate District, which will shift north to include eastern Iowa County and parts of Sauk and Columbia counties. His district will no longer include any of Rock County.


“The boundary of my district doesn’t make a lot of sense as far as continuity,” he said.


His district lost a good chunk of Green County in exchange for “bits and pieces of other counties” stretching up to the Wisconsin Dells and Reedsburg area, he said.


“It doesn’t make much sense,” he said, adding he had no input in the changes.


Erpenbach said he doesn’t agree with the maps or the way they were drawn. The maps are a result of Republican lawyers drawing them “very much behind closed doors.” Changes were made purely for political reasons, he said.


A better way to redistrict, he said, would be to have a panel of three judges draw maps purely on census data to remove the politics.


Rep. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville

Ringhand said the changes to her district were “not at all what I expected.”


Her 80th District shifts to the northwest, no longer including her Evansville home or any portion of Rock County. Her new district would be the 45th, which is shifting west to part of Green County and an L-shape in southwestern Rock County.


“It’s really a different district to say the least,” she said.


She told the Gazette last week she was surprised by the changes to her district.


“It’s just a very, very different segment than what I’ve had,” she said.


She said she would miss the residents she’s gotten to know in Monroe and Green County.


Rep. Evan Wynn, R-Whitewater

Wynn’s 43rd Assembly District would no longer include the southwestern townships in Rock County and Orfordville and would add southern parts of Jefferson and Dane counties.


The redistricting wouldn’t really change anything for Wynn, he told the Gazette earlier. He said he’ll keep knocking on doors and getting his message out.


Rep. David Craig, R-Vernon Township

Craig will remain in the 83rd Assembly District, which will include a smaller corner of northeastern Walworth County.


“Every 10 years, following the national census, every state must redraw their legislative boundaries,” Craig said. “I am pleased that we are moving forward with our constitutional duty to reapportion the state of Wisconsin.”


Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin

Lazich will remain in the 28th Senate District, which will include a smaller corner of northeastern Walworth County.


Lazich said “redistricting is bittersweet. I do not like losing constituents and territory. I look forward to meeting new constituents.”


Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn

Kedzie will remain in the 11th Senate District, which will be extended to include most of southeastern Rock County and most of southern Jefferson County.


Kedzie’s Madison office referred all redistricting questions to Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.


The Gazette was unable to reach for comment Rep. Stephen Nass, R-La Grange; Rep. Tyler August, R-Walworth; and Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton.



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