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County begins redistricting to adjust for 19-member board

Going from 31 to 19 members on the St. Croix County Board will result in uneven citizen representation, at least for a couple of years, supervisors were told Tuesday.

Because the redistricting process must use population counts from the 2000 census, numbers that are about 16,500 people out of date, and stick with existing municipal ward boundaries, it's not possible to reach usual equal representation goals, reported Senior Planner Ellen Denzer.

Last November county citizens passed a binding referendum to reduce the size of the board to 19.

The redistricting plan to accomplish that must be adopted by Nov. 15, but the County Board's Administration Committee hopes to hold a public hearing on the plan in March and have it adopted by the County Board in either April or May, said Denzer.

The intent, she said, is to give towns, villages and cities time to change coding that's required for each voter.

That will take time, said Denzer. "We're not sure how much because we've never had to do this before."

St. Croix's 2000 census population was 63,155. After that count, districts were redrawn to populations of about 2,040 each. Since the 2000 count will be used, the current redistricting goal is 3,324 people per district.

"This will not last for more than one election," said Denzer.

She said the county will also have to redistrict after the 2010 census. Because those numbers won't be finalized until 2011, county officials will work on redistricting that year to prepare for the 2012 elections.

These are some of the guidelines for redistricting:

  • Equal representation is the goal, but ward boundaries must be followed. Denzer said the post-census redistricting aims for districts that are within three percent of the goal. This time around the objective is to set up districts that are within five percent of the ideal.
  • Communities of interest should be kept intact. Efforts will be made not to divide a small town or village between supervisory districts and to divide larger cities, villages and towns within themselves.
  • District boundaries must be easily recognizable landmarks such as highways or rivers to avoid confusing voters and election workers.
  • District boundaries should coincide with municipal election districts whenever possible to cut back on the different ballots election clerks must manage.
  • Because of uneven growth in the county, western districts (which are assumed to have seen the largest growth since the census) should be smaller than the population norm and eastern districts should be larger.

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