Janesville29.1°

State’s new lines could undo county’s work

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ANN MARIE AMES
July 17, 2011
— After months of work, Rock County is close to finalizing its plan to create new boundaries for county and municipal voting districts.

But plans released July 8 by the state Legislature could slice the county’s map into strange pieces.


The Legislature is considering a plan to change the boundaries of Assembly and Senate districts.


In a separate process, local changes have been proposed and debated. The county will review its proposal one more time and could finalize the changes in September, County Clerk Lori Stottler said.


If the state approves its map without consulting the finalized local maps, it could mean added confusion for voters and municipal clerks, she said.


Here’s what you need to know:


What already happened

The county this spring used the results of the federal census to tweak the boundaries for the 29 county board supervisory districts. An ad hoc committee with the help of county staff used census data and other information to make changes, said Nick Osborne, assistant to the county administrator.


The goal is to make sure that each county board supervisor represents about the same number of people, Osborne said. In Rock County, that means each supervisor would represent about 5,500 of the county’s 160,331 residents.


Planners also want to create districts that don’t confuse voters, Osborne said. Statutes allow the use of features such as rivers, highways or municipal lines to create logical boundaries, Osborne said.


Population changes are the primary factor behind redistricting, but geography also is taken into consideration “because that makes it easier for the voter,” he said.


The county board in May approved a proposal and sent it to local municipalities for review.


What’s new

Municipalities had until July 11 to review the county proposal and return it to Stottler’s office. County officials will look over the changes the municipalities made and could make more changes.


Stottler didn’t expect much of that because municipal and county officials worked together on the boundary details, Stottler said.


“At this point, we don’t have a lot of changes coming forward,” Stottler said. “They were giving us input as we were going along.”


She can’t say the same for the state process, which is moving faster than normal, Stottler said, and the Legislature did not appear to use anything other than straight census data to draw boundaries, she said. Therefore, the lines could cut through municipalities or in some cases through wards.


County and municipal staff had worked hard to avoid such divisions, Stottler said. She wasn’t sure if the county would need to make more changes if the state’s proposal splits local wards.


“What does this mean for us? What does this do to our process?” Stottler said. “Would we have to go back and change it so we match their stuff? That’s possible.”



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