The political lines are being drawn
By Derrick Knutson
There might not be as much hubbub in Chisago County about redistricting as there has been recently regarding U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s 6th District, but changes are likely going to be made to boundaries within the county, which could result in politicians representing different areas.
A special election panel issued redistricting maps for the state Feb. 21. The State Legislature and the governor usually decide how the state is redistricted following the U.S. Census every 10 years, but the state court had to step in because Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican controlled legislature couldn’t agree on how to draw the lines.
The new boundaries won’t affect the congressional district that encompasses Chisago County, according to Chisago County Auditor Dennis Freed.
“We’re still going to be in the 8th Congressional District,” he said. “That’s not going to change.”
However, State Senate and House districts are likely going to change.
“For the Senate district, instead of being one Senate district like we are now, it’s going to be split into two Senate districts,” Freed said. “Franconia Township, the city of Schafer and a small portion of Schafer Township – 35 people – are going in Senate District 39, which is with Washington County. The rest of the county is in Senate District 32.”
Freed added the state court’s maps also divide Chisago County’s House district.
The House District Rep. Bob Barrett represents (17) is being divided in two in the upper part of the county. Those districts are labeled 32A and 32B.
The county doesn’t have any say over state legislative districts, but the county board will have some authority to redraw the lines for areas county commissioners represent.
Freed explained the main aim of redistricting is to have government officials representing roughly the same amount of people in their given districts.
In Chisago County, Freed said District 1 is too large in terms of population and District 5 is too small.
“If you look at a map (District 5 Commissioner) Mike Robinson has to gain from either North Branch or Sunrise Township,” Freed said.
If Robinson were to pick up population from North Branch, the city would have three commissioners on the county board representing parts of the municipality.
North Branch City Administrator Bridgitte Konrad said the council has been discussing the possibility of representation from a third county commissioner at numerous workshop meetings and will have to make a decision about the prospect during an upcoming regular meeting.
“I prompted the council to think about what is best for the city of North Branch,” she said. “Is one county commissioner best for a city with 10,000 people in it, or is it three? There are different ways to look at it.”
Currently, District 1 and 2 commissioners Lora Walker and Rick Greene represent North Branch.
Before the county draws its boundaries, school districts and cities within the county will have to hash out theirs. In North Branch, that could mean another precinct, which could equate to a third polling location in the city.
Chisago County will have numerous meetings to discuss and solicit public feedback on the redistricting process.
• April 3: Municipalities must establish proposed precincts.
• April 4: The board will have a work session following its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. to look at the precinct maps.
• April 11: The board will have a special work session at 6:30 p.m. to discuss redistricting.
• April 18: The board will have a public meeting at 7:30 p.m. to solicit public feedback about redistricting. The board could adopt a redistricting plan at this meeting.
• April 26: If needed, the board will have a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. to adopt the redistricting plan.