Efforts to Reflect Latinx Population in Milwaukee’s Electoral Maps Stalled

Milwaukee, WI – The United States conducts a census of the entire population every 10 years. This information is used for many purposes, including the distribution of federal and state revenues and the drawing of boundaries for election districts at the federal, state and local levels. 

“Wisconsin law requires that once the census data becomes available, local governments and the state legislature are required to adjust the boundaries of election districts so that they are as equal as possible in population,” is what is stated by the Milwaukee common council. This is what created the change in mapping for county districts, but led to a massive proposed change in the aldermanic maps, which drew panic from many local community organizations.

The Census Bureau delivered the 2020 data to all the states in August 2021 – after more than a four-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some data anomalies. Three lawsuits were filed shortly thereafter. These lawsuits stated the Supreme Court needed to reappoint the people behind legislation that allowed new districts to be so disproportionate. It was the effect of gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is a process that allows elected officials to pick their voters rather than the voters picking their representatives. It allows a political party, which holds the state assembly, the state senate, and the governorship for years to manipulate maps and districts to keep themselves in power for another 10 years. 

“It deprives voters of other parties of an equal chance at political power, interfering with their First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights. And fundamentally, it leads to unrepresentative government,” a Wisconsin Democracy Now! Campaign representative said.

The Latino/a/x community was united in first urging the Mayor and the Common Council to reject this map that fractured Latino/a/x voters on Milwaukee’s South Side into three separate districts, rather than allowing for the creation of a third Latino/a/x majority or plurality aldermanic district. This district in the community in Milwaukee has grown dramatically over the past decade.  Any new aldermanic district map must reflect this dramatic growth of these communities.

Last month, the aldermanic map was recently rejected. A representative for immigrant and working rights organization Voces de la Frontera stated,  “We thank all 15 members of the Common Council for reopening the process so that Latinx voters can now have input into a new aldermanic map that allows the Latinx community to elect an alderperson of their choice. We look forward to now having the opportunity to join with Council members in getting down to work and creating an aldermanic district that allows Milwaukee’s growing Latinx population to elect a representative of their choice”. 

The Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition is a group that has recently surfaced in Wisconsin, and is an online resource for anyone wanting to learn about the process, particularly nonpartisan redistricting. Gerrymandering is their main focus. 

“Wisconsin’s election outcomes from 2011-2020 were essentially decided in 2011 when the new maps were drawn. They are so gerrymandered that it’s essentially impossible for the minority party to ever beat a majority party incumbent,” a representative for the Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition said.

Jesus Salas, member of Voces de la Frontera’s Fair Maps Commission, said shortly after the vote, “This is a tremendous victory for the Latinx community – its leaders, its organizations. We were able to impress upon the Mayor to veto the first map and for the City Council to sustain the veto unanimously. It shows that the Latinx community deserves consideration and that we will hopefully have the power to elect a third representative of our choosing.”

Efforts to redraw the aldermanic maps unfortunately came to a halt last week when Milwaukee’s Common Council’s Judiciary and Legislation Committee accepted the maps former Mayor Tom Barrett vetoed last year. 

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