Thursday, March 27, 2008

Updated - Why County Board Elections Matter!

(This is an updated and expanded version of an earlier post. In addition to my previous environmental ratings of Dane County Board Supervisors, I've added ratings based on human services and other issues. Don't forget to vote on April Fool's Day!)

It's easy to overlook the importance of the Dane County Board, and County Board elections, when we think about politics here in the Madison area. But the Board determines environmental, land use, and human services policy for the entire county, including Madison. As these ratings show, there's an enormous difference in the way liberal and conservative County Board members vote on these issues.

The first two charts show ratings for every County Board Supervisor based on their votes on environmental (1st chart) and non-environmental (2nd chart) issues since August 2006. I've grouped the liberal Supervisors (blue) and the conservative Supervisors (red) so you can see the rather astonishing contrast. The average score is more than 90% for liberals verses less than 20% for conservatives. Click on the charts for larger versions.

Below are the individual voting records of each Supervisor for every issue I used in my ratings. I ignored absences and abstentions when I calculated the percentage ratings, but they're shown in the vote records. Some County Board members miss a heck of a lot of meetings, and you should consider that when you evaluate them.

Finally, here's info about each vote that went into these ratings. The numbering corresponds to the charts above. For more details go to the Dane County Board Minutes and Agendas web page, and use the dates in the tables below to find the appropriate minutes. Keep in mind that many of these votes are on amendments or proceedural moves, so you may have to work backwards through the history of the issue to really understand what's going on.

Vote #DateMinutes PageItemSignificance
18/17/2006108-109Res. 73Purchase of conservation land - Dunn, Pleasant Springs.
9/21/2006147-148Res. 102Delay action on purchase of land next to Brigham Park.
39/21/2006150-151Res. 103Independent study on power lines.
411/15/2006193BudgetCut conservation fund from $5 million to $1 million.
52/1/2007269Petition 9335Zoning change to permit development adjacent to Military Ridge Trail.
62/1/2007270Petition 9632Re-refer loosening zoning restrictions - Blue Mounds
73/1/2007294-320Ord. Am. 26Loosen floodplain restrictions. (Sub. 2).
84/5/2007371-372Ord. Am. 34Delay effective date of Coal tar sealcoat restrictions.
95/2/200726-28Res. 290Delay action on Bio-Ag, Town of Dunn.
108/16/2007107Petition 9721Zoning change to permit construction - Vermont.
118/16/2007114-116Res. 57 Sub. 2RTA - Adoption of Res. 57 Sub. 2.
129/6/2007134-135Petition 9611Zoning change to permit construction - Vermont.
139/20/2007146-147Petition 9474Re-refer zoning change to permit development - Springfield.
149/20/2007155-157Res. 94Motion to cut Conservation Fund.
1511/1/2007207-209Res. 127Delay action on Saddlebrook purchase.
1612/6/2008244Petition 9474Zoning change to permit development - Springfield.
1712/20/2008271-274Ord. Am. 26Postpone action on Transfer of Development Rights (TDR).

Vote #DateMinutes PageItemSignificance
Res. 36
Retirement incentive for county employees to reduce need for layoffs.
Res. 35
Honor US Troops - includes troops home language.
39/7/2006131-134Ord. Am. 7
Forbids housing discrimination based on receipt of "Section 8" assistance.
Res. 110Opposition to WI referendum banning gay marriage and civil unions.
Ord.Am. 27
Right of nursing mothers to breast feed in public locations.
64/19/20078Ord. Am. 17
Motion to permit "Section 8" housing discrimination, would reverse #3.
Ord. Am. 2. Sub. 1Requires county contractors to comply with fair labor standards.
Res. 60
Impeach Bush & Cheney.
Ord. Am. 12 Forbids county from profiting on phone calls and other services provided to jail inmates.
1010/4/2007167-169Ord. Am. 18
Strengthen fair housing requirements and enforcement.
1110/18/2007189-190Ord. Am. 19Family medical leave
1211/12/2007217-224BudgetAdd 12 new sheriff's deputies without offsetting revenue


1. Due to his voting record I listed Richard Brown as a conservative despite the fact that he was endorsed by the Democratic Party in his last run. The Dem Party actually endorsed Lisa Subeck against him this time around, and Brown was eliminated in the primary.

2. Although I did the ratings and made the charts, I didn't compile the actual vote data. Many thanks to my co-conspirator who did most of the hard work to make this post possible.

3. I apologize for using images rather than tables, but blogger has a hard time dealing with anything other than very simple tables.


Emily said...

This is very helpful and I appreciate you taking the time to put the information together.

Any clue where a person might look up what district they fall into?

Anonymous said...

Great work here, Russell, thanks for doing it! The contrasts are amazing. Not much middle ground on these issues, is there?

Russell Wallace said...

Hi Emily, if you live in Madison you can easily look up all your state and local elected officials here:

If you're outside of Madison you can find your state and national, but not local, elected officials at this website:

I don't know of any way to easily find out who your local officials are if you live outside of Madison. Probably have to use district maps, here's a good place to start:


Russell Wallace said...

Also helps to know where to vote, here's a link for Madison: