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Crow Wing County looks at redistricting

Crow Wing County commissioner districts.

Crow Wing County commissioners may run for election earlier than expected.

It’s all part of the ripple effects of redistricting. Commissioner’s borders may be redrawn, potentially placing more board members on the ballot.

The first redistricting step came with redrawing the congressional and legislative maps. The second step involves the cities. Once cities redraw their precinct lines, the county will be able to make its move.

There are four cities in Crow Wing County with multiple precincts — Brainerd, Baxter, Crosslake and Crosby.

Deborah Erickson, Crow Wing County deputy auditor-treasurer and election coordinator, said all the cities but Brainerd elect representatives at large, using precinct lines to even out voter volume on Election Day. Those cities may redraw lines without regard to the census, Erickson said.

“The city of Brainerd elects their representatives by ward,” Erickson said. “They have four wards within the city. And by their charter, they have to have wards that have as equal a population as possible. So they will now need to take the information given to them after the census and redraw their ward lines.”

Brainerd also has two precincts in each of its wards and will have to redraw precinct lines. Municipalities have a deadline of April 3 to complete work plans. Commissioners Rachel Reabe Nystrom, Rosemary Franzen and Phil Trusty all represent portions of Brainerd.

Since Crow Wing County serves as the ruling body for Unorganized Territory, it will have to examine those precinct lines. Unorganized Territory has 4,000 to 5,000 voters in three precincts north of Brainerd and Baxter. Erickson said voter volume shouldn’t be much higher than 2,000 people per precinct for elections.

The county’s work starts once the municipalities are done. County commissioner lines cannot split a precinct.

“So we have to know what a city’s precinct lines are going to be before we can establish the county commissioner districts,” Erickson said.

As part of redistricting, the county has to have as equal a population as possible between districts. District 1 covers the entire southern part of the county. District 2 covers Round and Gull lakes before tracking north to include the cities of Pequot Lakes, Breezy Point and Crosslake along with the county’s northwestern section. District 3 is in Brainerd and Baxter. District 4 stretches from Brainerd and Baxter north to Pelican Lake. District 5 includes the Cuyuna Range and covers the county’s northeastern side from Bay Lake to the county’s northern edge.

By the 2010 census, the population by Crow Wing County district is:

• District 1: 12,280.

• District 2: 14,129.

• District 3: 11,403.

• District 4: 13,846.

• District 5: 10,842.

The commissioners and the districts they represent are Trusty, District 1; Paul Thiede, District 2; Nystrom, District 3; Franzen, District 4; and Doug Houge, District 5.

Districts are not allowed to vary in population more than 10 percent from the average of all the districts in the county. The average district population is 12,500. By that division, District 5 is too small and District 2 and District 4 are too large.

“The boundaries of Districts, 2, 4 and 5 must be adjusted,” Erickson said. “In doing so it may mean adjustments to District 1 and District 3.”

The next step in the process, Erickson said, is to look at which commissioners will run for election in 2012. Shifting lines to move populations creates additional ripple effects.

Before the county board Tuesday, Erickson put both hands in the air saying it was comparing apples to oranges and coming up with fruit salad.

Erickson said the if the number of people shifting in and out of the district is greater than a 5 percent threshold, the commissioner must run for election again in 2012. So far, Erickson said it looks as though the county will need to make full city or full township shifts between districts, which may trigger the 5 percent rule. Ward changes in Brainerd could have the same trigger effect. Terms are up this year for Trusty and Board Chairman Doug Houge. If they seek re-election, they may not be looking at four more years. Some board terms could be set at two years in order to stagger elections.

All those details won’t be known until the county is able to come up with its work plan. The county has to have its plan completed and adopted by May 1.

Filings open May 22 for an August primary.

“There are no gimmes on this,” Administrator Tim Houle said. “You have to come to some conclusion and there are a variety of ways which you can do that.”

“I’m thinking death by sword,” Nystrom said.

The county’s redistricting committee expects to meet 1 p.m. March 12 in the Jinx Ferrari Room.

“We’ll be talking about this quite a lot over the next two months,” Erickson said.

Congressional and legislative redistricting plans were recently released. Crow Wing County remains in the 8th Congressional District. Previously, the county was in two state Senate districts — 4 and 12 — and in three legislative districts — 4B, 12A and 12B. Redistricting placed the county in Senate District 10 with two legislative districts — 10A and 10B.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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