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La Crosse County prepares for 'compressed' deadline to draw new maps

Olivia Herken, La Crosse Tribune  | Published on 7/16/2021
The La Crosse County Redistricting Committee will meet for the first time next Tuesday to begin the decennial process, drawing new electoral maps that will be ready for the spring 2022 elections.

“Due to that veto we are now working with a very compressed timeline,” La Crosse County Board of Supervisors chair Monica Kruse told the group Thursday night.

“We will get it done, we will do what we have to do,” Kruse said.

Officials were hoping to extend the deadline for municipalities to redistrict due to the pandemic, which has caused the data from the 2020 census to trickle in slower than typical, but fair maps advocates argued that it would further disenfranchise some communities.

The local committee, which consists of six La Crosse County Board supervisors and six members of the public, will need to wait for the updated census data to be released to draw any new maps, which isn’t expected until mid-August.

“We’re positioning ourselves, getting our ducks in a row so that when the data does come out we’re ready,” Kruse told the Tribune.

Once received, the committee will have just a few weeks to use the data to draw updated electoral maps in order for spring candidates to take out nomination papers by Dec. 1.

“It has to be done” for candidates to know the boundaries of their districts, La Crosse County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer said.

The La Crosse County Redistricting Committee will only directly draw new maps for the county board supervisor districts, but its tentative maps will help the municipalities in the county to draw their own, too.

The group will follow the same timeline as past years, which would typically begin in the spring, only in a much shorter period of time.

An unofficial timeline from the La Crosse County Clerk’s office says that the first tentative maps will be drawn in time for a public hearing in mid-September, after which the County Board will vote to approve it. That tentative map will then be sent to municipalities to aid in their remapping. By mid-November the final maps are expected be ready for approval by all bodies — though this entire timeline is subject to change.

Current state statute would have required counties to have adopted the tentative maps by July 1, but without updated census data it couldn’t be done, meaning municipalities around the state are currently in violation, though it’s not clear at this time what — if any — penalties there might be.

La Crosse County Republicans have voiced concerns over the fabric of the redistricting committee, but county officials have pushed back against a specific quota from either party since the County Board is a nonpartisan body.

Members of the committee include Kruse and fellow supervisors Steve Doyle, Randy Erickson (former Tribune reporter), Ralph Geary, Kevin Hoyer, Margaret Larson and Pam Viner.

It also includes Onalaska Mayor Kim Smith, former County Board chair Tara Johnson, La Crosse School Board of Education president Juan Jimenez, former Tribune editor Rusty Cunningham, Robin Schmidt with the League of Women Voters and Loren Kannenberg, a former staffer of Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse.

Both Doyle and Johnson also served on the committee to redistrict in 2011, and as a state Representative, Doyle will be part of the statewide redistricting process.

La Crosse County currently has 29 supervisor districts.

~La Crosse Tribune, July 16, 2021