Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Council Okays ‘Warp Speed’ Redistricting

City officials forced to work quickly, with one council member objecting to new plan.

By - Nov 24th, 2021 10:42 am
Proposed Milwaukee Common Council district map. Image from City Clerk.

Proposed Milwaukee Common Council district map. Image from City Clerk.

The City of Milwaukee has new districts for all 15 council seats.

And despite the fact that districts won’t be used until 2024, the Common Council introduced and adopted the new map in less than a week.

It was a “warp speed” process according to Alderman Ashanti Hamilton that resulted from a series of delays. The federal census was delayed because of the pandemic, the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor Tony Evers couldn’t agree on a suitable delay on the state’s process and the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors delayed in adopting its map to which the city must align its redistricting. The city must return the map to the county by Nov. 23.

The final map was adopted on 14-1 vote Tuesday morning with only Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa in opposition.

The city experienced a net population loss (17,611) in the past decade, but in an uneven manner. The result is that districts that lost population, particularly those on the North Side, must expand their footprint while others must contract.

The city is now 39.3% Black, 32.3% white, 20.1% Hispanic and 5.6% Asian. When considering only the voting age population, the city is 38.6% white, 36.1% Black, 17.6% Hispanic and 5.1% Asian.

The resulting districts maintain the balance of six Black majority districts, two Hispanic districts and five white districts of which two are being described as Hispanic “influence” districts. There is no legal definition for an “influence” district, but the council is informally defining it as a 25% voting bloc.

By voting age population, two districts have no racial or ethnic majority. The fifth aldermanic district, currently represented by Ald. Nikiya Dodd, is 44% white and 43% Black based on the voting-age population. The 10th district, represented by Ald. Michael Murphy, is 55.2% white, 28.4% Black and 9.4% Hispanic by voting-age population, but when all residents are considered the white population falls to less than 50%.

So why did Zamarripa vote against the proposal?

“I heard from community members… there were issues raised in particular with the Latino numbers and what that could mean for redistricting,” said Zamarripa in an interview.

She said she agreed with the Legislative Reference Bureau’s assessment that drawing three-majority Hispanic would be difficult.

Ald. Scott Spiker’s southside district, the 13th, and the one to the north, the 14th represented by Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, will now have voting-age Hispanic populations of 25.6% and 28.1% respectively. Their white voting-age populations are 57.4% and 62.4%.

Zamarripa said she would have preferred that the 13th district have a stronger Latino influence, likely being pulled from the 14th district.

“I used to represent this area in the Assembly and I know full well the low voter turnout, unfortunately, in the Latino areas and we are always drowned out by the high, affluent highly civic engaged of non-Latinos on the southeast side of the 14th district,” she said, describing Bay View.

“I do agree with a lot of the kudos that were given today to the Legislative Reference Bureau and to chairman Ashanti Hamilton because I know they had to move at warp speed,” said Zamarripa. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t have the time to take more input from the community and to look at more proposals.”

The alderwoman, first elected in April 2020, said she was contacted by community stakeholders including former UMOS executive director Jesus Salas, Forward Latino director Darryl Morin and Milwaukee Election Commission deputy director Jonatan Zuniga.

She said she was thankful they reached out and disappointed that the county board put the city in a tight spot by delaying its process.

LRB said the maps were drawn to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act and that efforts were also made to keep neighborhoods together by following major streets, rivers and other barriers. The smallest and largest districts must not be more than 10% different in size.

The new district map will go into effect for the 2024 spring elections for all 15 council seats. Any special election occurring before that time, under state law, would occur with new wards, but under the prior district lines. The election commission would need to accommodate or restrict voters in the new, redrawn wards so that those voting align with those eligible under the prior districts.

The council adopted a new ward map last week which will impact where and with whom residents vote beginning with the spring 2022 elections.

The terms Latino and Hispanic were used interchangeably in this piece to represent the comments of a speaker or the wording of a document.

Maps and Statistics

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Categories: City Hall, Politics

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