By Derrick Knutson
At the beginning of the Chisago County board’s worksession on redistricting Wednesday night six options for new districts were on the table for commissioners to consider.
By the end of the meeting the board had pared that number to two.
County Auditor Dennis Freed passed out a packet of maps to board members that breaks the county into five districts, based on a set of criteria.
County Administrator Bruce Messelt explained those criteria include “population, contiguity, compactness, common interest, affected communities and court-cited minimalism.”
Due to how individual cities established precinct borders last month, the county could not simply draw boundaries that would make for the most equal population in each of the five districts.
County commissioner and state legislative districts nationwide have to be redrawn following the U.S. Census every 10 years so elected officials are representing close to the same amount of residents in each given district.
Population, according to the state’s redistricting panel, is the preeminent factor to consider when drawing the boundaries.
Freed reiterated during the meeting that each district is supposed to be roughly equal in population, within 10 percent either way.
Four of the maps presented to the board didn’t fit that requirement, and were quickly dismissed by board members.
That left options four and six, each of which contain easy-to-see changes from the current county commissioner districts.
Perhaps the most noticeable change is District 5, which is currently represented by Commissioner Mike Robinson. It dips further south and encompasses a sliver of land west of Highway 95 in North Branch.
The two options leave the city of Wyoming slightly under that 10 percent parameter, but having a district under or over-represented is allowed if the county can justify to the state why a particular map is the best option for the county.
The only commissioner to express distinct support of one particular option was board chair George McMahon.
“Option six is a balance of everything,” he said.
“It meets all the criteria.”
Messelt noted the proposed redistricting maps will be posted on the county’s website prior to a public meeting April 18 at 7:30 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to solicit public feedback on the proposals.
Freed said in the past residents have actually presented the board with better options that ended up being implemented.
The board could approve a final map at that meeting. If the boundaries are not accepted April 18, another meeting is scheduled for April 26 at 6:30 p.m.