Census figures show that Congressional and legislative districts represented by Milwaukee-area Democrats lost so many residents that their new districts may have to include areas represented by suburban Republicans.

New district-by-district census numbers compiled by the Center for Urban Research at City University of New York (CUNY) document the largest deviations from the required “one person, one vote” standard that must be part of new districts.

CUNY analysts said those imbalances signal major changes in districts traditionally represented by Democrats—whether drawn by federal or state judges or by legislators and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

“Populations have shifted and grown or declined in the last 10 years,” the CUNY report said, adding, “Some districts now have many more people than the average district size; these districts will need to shrink. Other districts now have far fewer people than average; they will need to expand.”

Some of the biggest imbalances:

  • The 4th Congressional District, represented by Milwaukee Democrat Gwen Moore, is 41,320 residents or 5.6% below the statewide average of 736,715 people for each of the state’s eight U.S. House members.
  • The 2nd Congressional District, represented by Mark Pocan, who lives in rural Dane County, now has 52,678 more residents than the statewide average.
  • Milwaukee Democrats in the Legislature lost significant numbers of constituents in the last 10 years.

Rep. David Bowen’s 10th District has 6,905 fewer residents than the average of 59,533 for every Assembly District—a deviation of 11%; Evan Goyke’s 18th District is 6,546 below the average; Kaylan Hayward’s 16th Assembly District is 5,794 residents below the average; and the 11th District of first-term Dora Drake is 5,258 below average.

Those numbers mean Milwaukee Senate districts are also significantly imbalanced. The 6th District of Democratic Sen. LaTonya Johnson has 16,529 fewer residents than the 178,598 average for every Senate district. Sen. Lena Taylor’s 4th District has 15,390 fewer residents than a new district should have.

  • Populations in Madison-area Assembly and Senate Democrats’ districts soared over the last 10 years.

The 76th District of Francesca Hong is now 12,152 above the Assembly average—a deviation of 20.4%. The 79th District of Dianne Hesselbein is 10,199 above the average, a deviation of 17%; the 48th District of Sambeh Baldeh is 4,222 residents or 7% above the average.

Among Democratic senators, the 26th District of Kelda Roys is 23,321—or 13%—above the Senate average of 178,598; the 27th District of Jon Erpenbach, 16,906 above the average; and the 16th District of Melissa Agard, 13,894 above the average.

One former Democratic senator put it bluntly: “Will (Republicans who control the Legislature) have to give Madison one more Senate seat?”

CUNY statistics suggest that districts of Milwaukee-area suburban Republicans with above-average numbers of residents could lose constituents to Democrats.

But Democratic legislators don’t know what new districts Republicans will draw for them. Will Republicans draw a new Milwaukee Assembly district that throws two incumbent Democrats (Bowen and Goyke, for example) together, forcing a primary or one of them to move? Or will new Milwaukee districts encourage new candidates willing to challenge incumbents?

The districts of Rock County Democrats in the Assembly might not have to change much. The 45th District of Mark Spreitzer of Beloit, has a deficit of 1,869 residents; the 44th District of Sue Conley, of Janesville, a deficit of 959 residents, and the 43rd District of Don Vruwink, of Milton, 41 residents more than the average.

Who will draw the final maps is still much in doubt. Evers will veto any blatantly Republican-biased maps, and lawsuits are pending before federal judges and the state Supreme Court.

In a newsletter, Goyke said the new census numbers portend major changes. “Our urban areas are becoming increasingly more diverse. Milwaukee County lost around 1% of its population The City of Milwaukee lost nearly 3% of its population, leaving it at its lowest population since 1930.”

But that won’t mean less Capitol clout for metropolitan Milwaukee, the five-term Goyke insisted last week.

“I don’t believe that Milwaukee’s population loss will result in lost power in the Legislature, because growing Democratic suburbs are turning the region bluer, which results in a greater number of allies for Milwaukee and for the issues most critical to us.”

Steven Walters started covering the Capitol in 1988. Contact him at stevenscotwalters



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