Civics: How Competitive Are City and County Legislative Seats?

Public Policy Forum:

The level of competition varies in these counties, but in none are even half the seats contested. Eleven of Brown County’s 26 seats (42.3%) are contested placing it at the top of the list, while none of Waukesha County’s 25 seats are competitive. In Wisconsin’s two largest counties, few seats are up for grabs: only three out of the 18 Milwaukee County seats (16.7%) are contested, while Dane County features six competitive races out of 37 (16.2%). Assuming each seat represents the same number of people in a county, more than 80% of the 10-county population – or 2.56 million residents – will not get a choice for their supervisor in April.

Using 2017 population estimates, Milwaukee County supervisors represent 52,894 people on average, while each of Marathon County’s supervisors represents just 3,572. While many smaller counties’ supervisors volunteer, some are paid. Milwaukee County pays its supervisors a salary of $25,924, the most on our list.

Due to a constitutional provision called home rule, cities have broader authority to govern themselves than counties, meaning municipal elections are not uniform. For this analysis, we look at Wisconsin’s 10 largest cities.