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Redistricting decision delayed to give Superior council more options

City officials hope new maps can strike a compromise that councilors can approve by the Nov. 2 deadline.

Government Center in Superior
Government Center, Superior, Wisconsin. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Superior is going to run up to its deadline to draft new aldermanic districts following the 2020 Census to give the city clerk more time to draft additional plans councilors find acceptable.

City clerk Camila Ramos presented the council with four options, including one that would have returned the city to a minimalist voting ward structure with 22 wards, and one that would have restored a tradition of overlapping two county board districts within the boundary of one aldermanic district.

Mayor Jim Paine recommended the council wait to vote on the options to give Ramos time to create additional maps that councilors could accept.

Prior to redistricting in 2001, when the county board reduced its size by two members, Superior’s aldermanic districts consisted of two county board supervisors. That meant officials had to print two different ballots for every council district every two years when county board supervisors are elected to office.

The reduction in county board membership following the 2000 Census forced the city to develop a 47-ward plan in 2001 after councilors rejected a plan to maintain 10 members with at-large seats on the council. For the next decade, dozens of different ballots had to be created every two years to elect the five members of the council and 18 members of the Douglas County Board as each ward has a unique ballot.

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In 2011, the county board reduced its size by seven members and city officials were able to go down to 32 wards. The change reduced the number of different ballots that had to be printed.
Plans presented to the council by Tuesday, Oct. 5, create anywhere from 22 to 28 voting wards.

Ramos said the process of creating the new wards requires wards to have 600-2,100 people, and the population of aldermanic districts needs to be balanced within a 10% deviation. Under the original aldermanic boundaries, the population deviation was 22.88% between the least and most populated districts, meaning the boundaries had to shift, she said.

“I would prefer the first (plan) because it does have less wards and that means less ballots to juggle on Election Day,” Ramos said.

That plan has less than an 8% population deviation. However, she said she is hoping to find a compromise that councilors can live with.

“Over 10 years, keeping that deviation below 10% does have merit,” Paine said, noting that two large apartment complexes have opened since the Census was conducted and the residents who live in them could have ample influence over elections.

Ramos said she is trying to build those districts to the lower end of the deviation to balance the districts.

Councilor Brent Fennessey said he didn’t realize what a complex process it is to redraw aldermanic boundaries until he sat down with Ramos to see it for himself.

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“It was actually a really fascinating process, and I can’t imagine how many hours your office has spent,” Fennessey said. “It was a really fun process. Something like this looks like it’s really simple – just draw some boundaries. It’s so much more complex, so kudos to you and your entire staff for doing that.”

He said what he would like to see is that councilors represent a cohesive area of the community.

“I’m hoping that Clerk Ramos is presenting something she can so strongly recommend, having met with councilors, that it can come in concert with a certain amount of consensus,” Paine said.

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