Beloit split by redistricting

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New proposed legislative maps puts city in two different districts

If the redistricting map proposed by Republicans in Wisconsin is approved, Beloit would be in two different State Assembly Districts, and Amy Loudenbeck, Beloit’s current state representative, would live in a different district.

If the proposed redrawing of legislative maps is approved, Loudenbeck, a Republican from Clinton, would be the representative for the 31st Assembly District instead of the 45th Assembly District.

Beloit would be split in half, with the eastern part of the city in the 31st District and the West Side of Beloit in the 45th District, which would be represented by Janis Ringhand, a Democrat from Evansville. Currently, Ringhand is the Assembly representative for the 80th district, which currently includes Monroe near its southern edge, Evansville at its eastern edge and Oregon at its northern edge.

Democrats have objected to the redistricting plan, which was presented to the Democrats and the public on July 8.

“It splits Beloit in half. It will dilute Beloit’s influence,” said Rep. Peter Barca, Democratic Minority Leader in the Assembly. “Beloit should be able to go to one representative in the Assembly.”

“They made a much safer Assembly District for Rep. Loudenbeck,” said Sen. Tim Cullen, the Democratic Senator for the 15th District.

He noted the 45th Assembly District has traditionally been held by Democrats, but by selectively moving boundary lines, she will enjoy much more Republican support.

Loudenbeck would pick up a bigger share of Walworth County, including Elkhorn, Fontana, Walworth and Williams Bay. The 45th currently includes only Richmond Township in Walworth County, which proved to be key to Loudenbeck’s primary election victory when she defeated Jeff Klett of Beloit by only 19 votes.

The Daily News attempted to contact Loudenbeck with several phone calls and e-mails in the last few days. Loudenbeck’s staff member, Lonna Morouney, said she did not have a comment on the redistricting plan at this time.

In the redistricting, Ringhand’s current district (the 80th District) will be sliced up into three different districts.

“I will lose about two-thirds of my current district,” Ringhand said. “It’s a big demographic change. I will miss the constituents I have become familiar with, but I would look forward to serving the people of Beloit and Orfordville.”

In fact, she will be in Beloit Saturday at the Farmers Market with Sen. Cullen, D-Janesville, so she can get to meet what may me some of her new constituents.

The State Senate may vote on the new district map Tuesday. Then it would go to the Assembly for hearings and a vote. If approved, it will move on to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk.

Cullen said he expects the Senate to approve the new redistricting plan Tuesday on a party-line vote and the Assembly will vote Wednesday along party lines.

“They are trying to do this before the recall elections in August because they are afraid they will lose the majority in the Senate,” Cullen said.

He said, although he opposes the plan, he believes he can’t do anything to stop it.

“They obviously have the support of the majority and that’s all it’s going to take,” Cullen said. “I’m pretty well resigned to it. My job is to represent whoever is in my district and that is what I’m going to do.”

Cullen is disappointed he no longer will be the state Senator representing all of Beloit. He said he always has been the Senator for Beloit since he began his legislative career in the 1970s. Now, he will only represent the west side of Beloit while Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, will represent Beloit’s east side, as well as the Village of Clinton and a portion of Janesville. Cullen will lose about a quarter of Rock County under the new Senate district map.

Ringhand said she is surprised about the redistricting.

“Typically, they wait for cities, counties and townships to do their redistricting first. Then they work from those districts,” Ringhand said.

Cullen said the redistricting plan is moving forward about nine months ahead of when it usually has been presented to the legislature.

Ringhand said she has heard that their may be a court challenge to the proposed redistricting efforts, but she is not sure how successful that will be.

Ringhand said having Beloit in two different districts will be confusing for Beloit residents and it will be more work for the city clerk when elections come around.

Cullen agreed there will be confusion among voters. The new district maps will not go into effect until 2012, but he expects people will not know who their State Senator or Assembly Representative is for quite some time.

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