Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office


September 23, 2016
County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan, 608.333.2285
County Board

New process will establish fair voting districts while removing political influence


In a move to establish fair and nonpartisan voting districts, the Dane County Board has approved a new Citizen Redistricting Commission to redraw maps following the release of the 2020 Census. The redistricting process was approved by the Board at its meeting Thursday night.


Modeled after the much-lauded system used in Iowa for drawing Legislative and Congressional districts, the Dane County process would set voting districts based on population, municipal boundaries, ethnic makeup and natural geographic features.


The Citizen Redistricting Commission would include from 9 to 11 members who are not affiliated with any political party, lobbying group, labor union or other entities with a vested interest in drawing voting boundaries. County Board Supervisors, elected officials or anyone who participated in the controversial 2011 redistricting process in Wisconsin are specifically barred from the commission.


“Voters should feel confident that they get to select their elected officials, not the other way around,” said Supervisor Jenni Dye of Fitchburg, who chaired a subcommittee that helped draft the new plan. “This independent commission means that supervisors won't be the ones at the table drawing maps and selecting their voters.”


Redistricting has turned into a major political issue in Wisconsin, with critics charging majority Republicans in the State Legislature of drawing maps that benefitted their party following the 2010 Census. A lawsuit is now pending in federal court challenging that process.


In response to those concerns, Dane County voters in 2014 overwhelmingly approved an advisory referendum to establish impartial, nonpartisan redistricting. The County Board then established a subcommittee to make recommendations for how to conduct the next mapping process.


“The subcommittee members worked to develop a system to prevent creation of political lines that benefit one side or another,” said Supervisor Bill Clausius of Sun Prairie, a subcommittee member. “Instead, we proposed a process that involves increased public transparency so that many will understand how and why lines are drawn for redistricting. While no system is perfect, we used information from other states to support our proposed process to demonstrate a high level of confidence in our political system.”


Once the 2020 Census figures are released, Dane County will begin putting together its redistricting commission. The County Board Chair and Dane County Clerk will make appointments to the commission, with the final selection to be approved by the full County Board.  The Dane County Towns Association, the Dane County Cities and Villages Association and the City of Madison will have input into the appointments. 


The Redistricting Commission will then submit one to three maps to the County Board for a vote. If none of the maps have enough votes for adoption, the maps would be re-referred to the Redistricting Commission, which should then have the opportunity to amend the maps and resubmit them to the Board for final approval.


While the commission won’t be finalized for four years, County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan of Middleton said it was important to set the parameters early to ensure the process is insulated from any political influence.


“The idea is to get the process in place now so it’s ready when the time comes to actually start work on redistricting,” she said.