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WI Latinx voters want fair representation in new district maps

Official mail-in ballots for 2020 US general election
BENJAMIN CLAPP/Benjamin Clapp - stock.adobe.com
Wisconsin News Connection
Official mail-in ballots for 2020 US general election

The Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision to make few changes when redrawing the state's voting maps is raising concerns new districts may not adequately represent the growing number of Hispanic and Latinx voters.

The court has said any alterations to the maps will be based on population shifts and certain legal principles, like the Voting Rights Act.

The Latinx community is Wisconsin's largest and fastest-growing minority group, according to the 2020 Census.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of the Milwaukee-based group Voces de la Frontera, worried the census undercounted minority residents during the Trump administration.

"Both the pandemic was a serious issue for the census count, as well as, you know, the impact of a very hostile administration," Neumann-Ortiz asserted.

Hispanic and Latinx voters played a major role in delivering Wisconsin to Joe Biden in the 2020 election. A Washington Post exit poll found about 60% of the group in Wisconsin cast ballots for Biden, in a state he won by just over 20,000 votes, or less than 1% of all ballots cast.

In adopting a "least-change" approach to redistricting, the state's high court handed a win to Republican lawmakers. The current maps were drafted in 2011, when Republicans controlled the legislature and governor's office, and have been criticized for favoring GOP candidates.

Neumann-Ortiz pointed out keeping those maps largely intact means Latinx voters may not have as strong a voice, in Madison or on Capitol Hill.

"Reinforcing this gerrymandered map, it means that the issues that Latinos care about deeply, and that are broadly supported, are going to continue to be obstructed," Neumann-Ortiz contended.

Kathay Feng, national redistricting director for Common Cause, said once voting maps hit the courts, it becomes more difficult for citizens to weigh in on the process. Speaking at a redistricting seminar, she noted the best way to influence the process was through a ballot.

"In some states where you have judicial elections, or there's a way to influence the judges that are chosen, it's making sure that there is a tremendous amount of voter education," Feng urged.

Wisconsin's Supreme Court justices are elected to ten-year terms. All other judges in the state run for reelection every six years.

Jonah Chester is Wisconsin Public Radio's 2022-2023 Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow embedded in the Wisconsin Watch newsroom. He most recently worked at Public News Service, a national radio news service, where he covered Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. He previously produced the 6 O'Clock News at WORT 89.9 FM in Madison, where he won numerous awards from the Milwaukee Press Club and Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for his reporting on issues in Dane County and south-central Wisconsin.
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