Reviews | Cartographers Must Attract Student Seats For Madison City Council To Be Really Representative | John nichols


The tradition of representing undergraduates on the board is important. This is one of the reasons Verveer and other board and community members have opposed measures to reduce the size of the board – as has The Capital Times, which has long advocated for a larger and more representative board.

The plan to reduce the size of the council was rejected by voters in the spring 2021 elections, when only 16% of the electorate supported a smaller body. Yet threats to student representation continue.

The city is in the process of redrawing the council districts based on data from the 2020 U.S. Census, and several of the proposed maps threaten to change the makeup of 8th in ways that could weaken student representation.

Ald. Juliana Bennett, a UW student who currently represents the district, worries the proposed cards will “crack the voice of the students.” This is a reference to the redistribution strategy – often employed by Republicans – of breaking up concentrated groups of voters in a way that undermines their ability to elect representatives of their choice.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project explains how politicians twist the cards for undemocratic results, noting: “This process is accomplished by two complementary methods: wrapping and cracking. Packing occurs when many supporters of the victim party are stuck in a small number of districts, giving them some crushing victories. The remaining members of the victim party are then “cracked”, spread over a large number of constituencies, so that they systematically win just under 50% of the vote.


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