April 12, 2012 at 8:17 a.m.

County Board likes two district options

County Board likes two district options
County Board likes two district options

The first maps drawn to create new county commissioner districts were reviewed April 4 by the County Board. Two maps were embraced as being most acceptable so far. Of six map layouts that were drafted, the Board liked options 4 and 6.

(See graphics) The analysis continues, however, as commissioners look more closely into the finer aspects of redistricting. Also, while he was presenting the options, County Auditor Dennis Freed cautioned the Board that during his tenure: one time the county was taken to court in a dispute over redistricting, and another time citizens presented “the better plan” for districts. Freed felt at this time, none of the maps is “a perfect solution” to all the legal nuances of redistricting, and the public might have some ideas. He added, “If there’s a better plan out there, we want to know it.” There is a public hearing April 18 in the county boardroom.

Plan adoption is scheduled for a special session April 26. State law requires county redistricting be done no later than May 1. Court challenges have to be filed no later than May 8. Additional issues the commissioners want to continue to scrutinize in their options include; the impact to communities that may become separated into new different districts, which historically have had mutual interests represented by one commissioner. The Board also wishes to find the best balance between “urban” and “rural” populations.

It will be tough to do-- as a couple redistricting options create nearly completely urbanized districts, ie: North Branch and the Wyoming-Stacy area. Their urban-centered population counts almost make them stand-alone districts.

The County Board also was considering last week which territories of the county are most likely going to see future growth. The issue was whether the populations of more development-prone new districts should be starting artificially low, so when growth occurs they’ll be equitable compared to other districts’ headcounts in a few years. Redistricting is only done every 10 years after census counts are released. No surprise-- the northern district #5 experienced the least amount of growth from 2000 to 2010. It went from 7,480 to 8,978 people.

The district is not, however, in compliance with the allowed deviation from the average of all the commissioners’ five districts, though, so it will be re-drawn along with the other four. District 1 saw the greatest growth-- from 2000’s population of 8,933 to 13,420 now. Districts 3 and 4 had similar population growth, both adding about 2,000 to 3,000. District 2 saw about 1,800 added from 2000. Cities have finalized their precinct layouts and polling places so that the county commissioners have details on these. The deadline in state law for precincts to be determined was April 3. Commissioner districts are not supposed to share (split) any precincts and there’s a couple areas where this gets tricky... Shafer Township is now split between two state legislative districts, (310th is dividing line) and has an A and B precinct, explained Freed. Also, North Branch has adopted three voting precincts.

(One west of I-35, one south of #95 and one north of #95) Wyoming, Taylors Falls, Harris and Chisago City city officials adopted single precinct systems. Who runs when? Freed also advised the commissioners of an unanswered question. They’ll have to accept an election/terms schedule for their seats. County Attorney Janet Reiter said the law requires “staggered” terms, and the general rule is to do this as “reasonably and balanced as possible.” She also suggested the Board stick to its three running at one time, and two seats expiring at the next election cycle. Freed said some counties go to four and one; some just toss a coin or blindly pick pieces of paper in a lottery, for who gets what length of term.

Those commissioners who must run in 2012 would be anybody who ends up in a district where the total shift is greater than the county’s “threshold.” The threshold is the county’s population divided by five (number of districts) and multiplied by .05.


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