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Proposed Kandiyohi County, Minn., redistricting maps to get public review

WILLMAR -- Six different options for reconfiguring the Kandiyohi County commissioner districts will be presented at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday when the Kandiyohi County Board meets for a first round of public review.

More options, including those submitted by the public, could be considered.

"It's interesting to see if the public will come up with something," Auditor Sam Modderman said. "Maybe somebody's got another idea."

With the six current proposals, nearly every district would gain some or lose population. Some townships or city precincts could be shifted from one district to another. In every proposal at least three commissioners' seats will be up for election.

Two of those positions would be up for election because their four-year terms expire at the end of the year. Other elections would be necessary because of redistricting.

"We're trying to work out as many scenarios as possible," said Modderman, who has now overseen three redistricting procedures. This will be his last as he retires next month.

The commissioners might also have some of their own suggestions to change the maps.

A decade ago, commissioners approved a modified plan they helped create, said Modderman.

Redesigning the district maps to reflect new population figures for different regions of the county involves more math than politics, although the results could affect future elections.

"The process is pretty prescriptive about the rules," County Administrator Larry Kleindl said. "It dictates what we can and cannot do."

The first step in the process is to take the county's new population figure of 42,239.

That number is divided by the five districts in the county, for an average population of 8,448 per district.

The law allows each district to have a population with a 10 percent variance from the average. That means the population of each district could be 845 above or below the average.

Then there's the five percent rule, and this affects county commissioners the most.

The rule pertains to five percent of the average district population, which is 423. If the total number of people shifted out of a district, plus the number of new people shifted into the district is greater than 423, then that seat is up for election.

If the total number is less than 423, an election is not required.

The numbers must also fit into rules, such as a requirement that districts must include land that is contiguous, and townships and precincts cannot be split.

Two scenarios would have all five commissioners running for re-election this fall.

Two different proposals call for four commissioners -- excluding Willmar's Jim Butterfield -- to run for re-election.

The final two proposals call for three commissioners to run, including Dennis Peterson of Spicer and Richard Larson from Willmar, who are both retiring this year.

In each proposal commissioner Harlan Madsen, a rural Lake Lillian farmer who was re-elected in 2010, will have to run for re-election due to the population shifts.

Kleindl said he doesn't have a preference for one plan over another, he added that it's never a good idea to have all five commissioners up for election in the same year because of the possibility that five new individuals without experience could be elected at one time.

"You want to have some consistency," he said.

Although county commissioner terms are four years, some of the 2012 candidates will be running for a two-year term to create a staggered election rotation for future years. Future terms will be four years.

Modderman said he hopes the public takes time to look at the maps and devise an alternative. One option he's heard involves a pie-plan. For Kandiyohi County, that scenario would place Willmar as the center of the pie with each district containing a small portion of Willmar and a wider portion of rural areas.

The problem with that plan, however, is that the five-member board could be made up entirely of Willmar residents or rural residents. Modderman didn't think that option would go over very well in Kandiyohi County.

A second informational meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 27. A final public hearing and vote will be held at 11:30 a.m. April 3 during the county board meeting.

All the meetings will be held in the Health and Human Services Building.

Redistricting maps can be viewed at the county auditor's office or at

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750