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BE vote affects county

By Staff | Oct 18, 2010

John Roper

The vote in Blue Earth whether to keep the current ward system in place or do away with it, carries ramifications on a county level.

Faribault County Commissioner John Roper says a vote to eliminate the three wards in the city of Blue Earth would automatically trigger a redistricting of the five county commissioner districts.

“It would mean the city of Blue Earth would become a one-county commissioner district,” he says.

Currently, the City of Blue Earth is split between two county commissioner districts.

Blue Earth’s Ward 3 is part of Commissioner District 1, along with the cities of Elmore and Frost, and the townships of Elmore, Rome, Emerald and Blue Earth.

Roper is the commissioner from that district.

Wards 1 and 2 in Blue Earth are part of Commissioner District 2, along with Jo Daviess, Verona and Pilot Grove townships.

Butch Erichsrud represents that district on the board of commissioners.

County Auditor/Treasurer John Thompson agrees that a vote to eliminate the ward system in Blue Earth will trigger an automatic redistricting.

“County Attorney Brian Roverud and I have studied the language on the ballot question, and it appears we would need to redistrict, if there are no longer wards,” Thompson says.

Commissioner districts must represent equal numbers of constituents, Thompson says.

“Each commissioner has to represent roughly the same number of people,” he says. “At least within plus or minus 5-percent.”

Commissioner districts also must be composed of voting precincts.

In Faribault County, there are currently 33 voting precincts. Each of the 20 townships and the 11 cities in the county is a voting precinct. Plus, the city of Blue Earth has an extra two voting precincts, because it is broken into three wards.

“Without the three wards in Blue Earth, we will be down to 31 voting precincts,” Thompson says, “and we will need to divide these into five equally-populated commissioner districts.”

Thompson says the census in 2010 may also trigger a redistricting, whether the City of Blue Earth does away with wards or not.“I think some of the northern areas of the county have gained in population, while some southern areas have lost population,” he says.

State law dictates that if any commissioner districts are more than five percent above or below the others, there must be a redistricting.

It is Thompson who will be in charge of that task.

“I would have to figure out several ways to redistrict the county, then it would be up to the board to vote on which one to use,” Thompson explains.

In other words, it is possible that the City of Blue Earth could become one commissioner district, even if the vote on Nov. 2 is to keep the three wards in place.

If any redistricting is done, it will also automatically trigger having all five county commissioners stand for election in the next election.

It could also have two commissioners having to face each other, if they both wind up living in the same new district.

That happened in 1990, Thompson says, which is the last time the county went through the redistricting process.

“We had two running against each other at first,” he recalls. “But one of them, Tom Brown, passed away before the election. So, we had the third place finisher in the primary placed on the ballot. It was a bit confusing.”

Thompson admits it could become confusing again, if the vote in Blue Earth eliminates the wards, or if the census numbers dictate a redistricting.

“We were really close with the last census, in 2000,” Thompson says. “I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we will be facing redistricting no matter what.”

Thompson says he is not sure exactly when he will hear from the Census Bureau as to what the new official population numbers are.