By Heather Graves
BROWN COUNTY – November’s ballot will include an advisory referendum question asking voters for their thoughts on nonpartisan redistricting procedures, following a vote by county supervisors Wednesday, June 17.
The ballot question – “Should the Wisconsin Legislature create a nonpartisan procedure for the preparation of legislative and congressional district plans and maps?” – was approved with a 15-10 vote, with one supervisor excused.
The topic had full board support. However, some supervisors thought because county support was obviously high, they could pass that along to legislators with a direct resolution instead of spending money on a referendum.
“I support the question,” said District 26 Supervisor Keith Deneys. “It’s kind of like asking who likes ice cream. I don’t want gerrymandering. I don’t want unfair district lines. I think all of us agree – we are in support of nonpartisan procedures. But it’s been brought up a number of different times here that we are elected to represent the citizens of our districts. And we can do that without spending $2,000-$4,000 to have a referendum. We can pass a resolution in support and send it down to the Legislature that says the same thing.”
Others believe putting the possible support of the entire county behind the request would hold more weight in Madison.
“I do think it is more powerful if the actual residents of Brown County share their voice,” said District 23 Supervisor Ray Suennen. “It gets heard a little louder in Madison then just a county board proposing it and shipping it forward.”
Though supervisors voiced concerns of the Legislature not being responsive to communications from the county in the past, they agreed it isn’t a reason to stop trying.
“I have been on the board for just over eight years now, and the state very rarely does listen to us, they don’t take our resolutions seriously, they don’t take our referendums seriously,” said Vice Chair Tom Sieber. “I think in this case for sure, we need to put this on the ballot and let the people’s voices be heard. Just because they aren’t listening doesn’t mean we stop trying and just throw our hands up in the air. This issue is very much a local issue. Constituents want to have their voice heard on this issue, more than just through their supervisor. They want their voice heard at the ballot box.”
In-person board meeting
The July 15 County Board meeting will be held at the Resch Center after supervisors approved a return to in-person meetings on a 16-9 vote.
However, not all supervisors were in favor of in-person meetings with the uncertainty of what’s ahead in regards to COVID-19.
“I think we can show leadership by showing concern for all the precautions that we are told to undertake to protect not just our health, but all our constituents and general public and continue virtual meetings, which are going well,” said District 14 Supervisor Joan Brusky. “As I’ve heard recently, we may be tired of the virus, but the virus is not tired of us. It’s still there.”
Others were confident with proper planning the meeting can take place safely.
“I definitely support meeting in-person,” said District 22 Supervisor Tom Peters. “I think what has been talked about with taking precautions makes a lot of sense. But I think we have to begin to show leadership that life has to get back to normal. As a board, I think we need to demonstrate leadership, take precautions and have the meeting in person.”
County staff said they will work with the health department and take all recommended precautions including masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing practices.
More information will be released when details are ironed out.
The public will be welcome to attend the meeting.