It’s the next step in a usually long but now condensed redistricting process, and officials spent part of the evening fine-tuning the map after hearing feedback from the public.
Several municipal leaders, who will soon be tasked with using this map to draw their own, submitted comments on the maps and requested some changes, though not all requests were granted.
A request from an official with the city of Onalaska to adjust a boundary did not get approved by the board Monday.
The city requested that an area near the border of districts 18 and 24 be swapped to include new land that Onalaska is expected to finalize annexing from the town of Hamilton later this year.
Because redistricting works in census blocks, which is a type of unit the U.S. Census Bureau uses to break down population to its smallest form, the land the city plans to annex cannot be moved to a district independent of its entire census block.
The land being annexed is also only woodland for the time being, officials said, and although there are plans to develop housing on it, there could be no Onalaska voters in the block for a number of years, and in the immediate future it would mean that around 92 town of Hamilton voters would be shifted to a district that is otherwise largely occupied by the city of Onalaska.
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“It could take 10 years before that actually gets developed into what they hope to,” said supervisor Kevin Hoyer, who currently represents District 24 but would have been placed in a district with a fellow incumbent under this change.
Officials were reassured by legal staff that the boundaries of the district can be changed down the road in cases of annexation, and voted narrowly to turn down the boundary change at this time.
Other changes did get approval, including moving one census block of about 74 voters from District 29 to District 28 to create a contiguous border for the town of Shelby. That voter shift rippled into the town of Barre to even the populations of each district out.
The other change the board approved came over concerns from the town of Holland chair, Bob Stupi, who said the proposed map unfairly “chopped” up the community, leaving its residents as “minority groups” with the other municipalities it shared districts with.
The current map would lay four different districts over the town, compared to the two the community is currently divided into now.
“While we are an area of large population growth, I don’t think adding portions of our town to our district enhances the representation to our residents,” Stupi said in an email to the board.
“Instead, I think they add confusion for our residents as to who represents them as well as in which district a resident should vote. I believe that some rearranging is in order,” he said. “The town of Holland will have less, more diluted representation under this proposal.”
To address the concerns, the boundary between Districts 22 and 23 were adjusted so that the town of Holland is only divided amongst three districts.
“We calculated a lot of numbers and that’s the best we could come up with that recommendation,” said county staff.
The changes adjust the border of the two districts near where the town of Holland and village of Holmen meet.
Supervisor Ralph Geary also requested to alter the boundaries of the city of La Crosse to match a set from a previous draft, saying it offered the least amount of difference in population for each district for the city.
County staff have been focusing on keeping the city’s supervisor districts aligned with the municipality’s border in order to avoid ballot confusion, and its outside boundary has remained the same while the 13 districts inside the city boundary have changed slightly throughout drafts.
Geary, who served on the Redistricting Committee, proposed using the inner boundaries from one of staff’s first drafts and placing them within the rest of the proposed map.
“It’s going to be a lot less confusion for the voters in the city of La Crosse being that there are districts that will not be voting in the same district that they have voted probably the last 10 years,” said supervisor and La Crosse Common Council member Andrea Richmond in support. “I think it’s important to keep the whole city the same.”
But other supervisors stated they weren’t comfortable voting on the boundaries having not seen them. Previous maps were not presented to the full board, only the map that the Redistricting Committee chose to move forward with.
The change failed on a tie vote Monday.
Overall, the new map has received praise and many have commended officials for working together on a time crunch.
“At the end of the day, I think that it is a good plan. I support having an extra seat be given, I like the idea of having more opportunity for citizens to be engaged in the political process,” said resident Jake Williams of District 5, during the public hearing. “I think that the work of the Redistricting Committee was exemplary given the insane, compressed timeline.”
“I think it’s really amazing that they were able to accomplish their goals,” supervisor Maureen Freedland said of the Redistricting Committee, which voted unanimously on the map last week. “I think that shows that we can work together for the common good and get a job done, and I’m just really proud.”
“It was a great committee to work with,” said La Crosse County Board chair Monica Kruse. “It was very collaborative and we got a lot of work done in a short time.”
This is not the final step in the redistricting process, and the onus now shifts into the hands of municipalities, which throughout October will use the boundaries the county has drawn to reshape their ward lines as needed.
The full county map will then return and get a final vote in November in time for candidates to take out papers for the next election.
This story was updated at 2 p.m. to correct an earlier version that misspelled an official’s last name, as well as to correctly state the approval process of the maps. The vote on the tentative map Monday was final until it is officially approved by the board in November.