Last week, we encouraged the county board to review Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo's plan adding a second Latino majority voting-age district to Milwaukee County. Sanfelippo's plan was never introduced for the board's approval, but we believe the board could integrate his draft before the preliminary plan is finalized in weeks to come. Here is the rundown.
Milwaukee County's Hispanic community experienced a distinctive growth spurt in the past decade resulting in an increase of 45,000. To some, the increase requires the county board to redraw the lines adding a second Latino majority "voting-age" district. Yet the board's preliminary plan disregarded U.S. Census Bureau figures and kept the Hispanic community at a single majority voting-age district. El Conquistador has been investigating to see if more could have been done, at the county level, to ensure equal treatment of Hispanics.
As we reported last week, the black population in Milwaukee County is 253,656 making up 26% of the total population. They have six majority voting-age districts meaning they have six seats on the county board. Hispanics in Milwaukee County have a population of 126,039 making up 13% of the total population. Hispanics have only one majority voting-age district meaning they have one seat on the county board. Based on population percentages, either the black community has too many seats or the Latino community doesn't have enough.
County Supervisor Patricia Jurisk brought our attention to the math problem. There are 18 seats on the county board's preliminary redistricting plan. The black community makes up 26% of Milwaukee County's population. So if you multiply 18 county board seats against 26% of the population, it gives you 4.68 county board seats. Yet the black community currently has 6 county board seats.
The Latino community makes up 16% of the Milwaukee County population. So if you multiply 18 seats against 13% of the population, it gives you 2.34 county board seats. Yet Latinos only have only one county board seat. In contrast, the black community's population in Milwaukee County doubles the Hispanic community, by they have 6 times more the county board representation.
We asked County Board Supervisors Peggy West and Marina Dimitrijevic if a second Hispanic majority voting-age district could be added, and they insisted it couldn't be done without increasing the size of the county board. Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo disagreed and proved it by drawing up a map including a second Latino majority voting-age district; and he did it without inflating the size of the county board. In Sanfelippo's plan, he gives Hispanics two majority voting-age districts - one with a 62.9% voting-age Latino population and one with 57.6%.
Sanfelippo's layout increases the Hispanic voting-age population of Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic's from 43% to 57%, making it the second majority voting-age district. We asked Supervisor Dimitrijevic if she would support Sanfelippo's layout when the restricting plan comes to a final vote. Although she indicated an interest in reviewing his plan, she has yet to give us a response.
Sanfelippo told El Conquistador that he wants to reduce the size of the county board, but if the final board size must be 18, he believes the Hispanic community should get an additional majority voting-age district. He said, "With only one majority district, Hispanics run the risk of having a greatly diminished voice in what happens in their community for the next 10 years."
Sanfelippo raises an interesting point. In the next ten years, Latinos could grow to represent nearly 1/4th of the county population, yet only having 1/18th of the political influence. That would be very unfortunate.
Supervisor Sanfelippo isn't the only one pushing the issue for Latinos. State Legislator Jeff Stone recently weighed in saying, "Recent numbers show the Hispanic population being roughly half the African American population. The new plan only has one predominately Hispanic seat while there are six African American seats. After looking more closely at the districts in the new plan, there does seem to be a substantial discrepancy when looking at the minority populations in those districts."
Representative Stone's statements marks the first time a member of the State Legislature weighed in on the issue. Additionally, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council (ICC) - a group of City Mayors and other municipal leaders - voiced their collective opposition to the county board's tentative plan in their resolution. The ICC also cited groups like the ACLU, NAACP, and Hispanic community representatives as expressing significant opposition to the county board's tentative plan.
Supervisor Joe Rice said, "The unanimous vote for all Milwaukee County municipal leaders [the ICC] to oppose this plan is solid evidence of the absence of support for the action taken by county board members."
To date, the county board has yet to signal a desire to reconsider their preliminary redistricting plan. As opposition grows in Milwaukee County, board supervisors have an obligation to consider the input of elected leaders in surrounding municipalities. And they have also an obligation to consider how their redistricting impacts minority communities.