Anoka County Board approves redistricting plan

Six of the seven Anoka County Board seats will be on the general election ballot this year as a result of a redistricting plan approved by the board Tuesday.

The 2012 Anoka County Commissioner redistricting map approved by the county board Tuesday. Map: Anoka County
The 2012 Anoka County Commissioner redistricting map approved by the county board Tuesday. Map: Anoka County

Under the law, May 1 was the last day for the board to approve its 2012 redistricting map because filings open Tuesday, May 22 for this year’s election.

But because county board districts have to follow the precinct boundaries of its municipalities, the county could not finalize its plan until all the cities had adopted their precinct boundaries – the last one was Coon Rapids April 3, according to Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah, responsible commissioner for redistricting, who headed a committee of staff members to come up with the plan.

“We had to wait to do a lot of the work until we received all the information from the cities,” Sivarajah said in an interview with ABC Newspapers.

“It was a quick turnaround. The committee did have meetings earlier to set up basic principles.”

Only three of the seven county commissioner seats are scheduled to be on the ballot this year – District 5 (Commissioner Carol LeDoux), District 6 (Sivarajah) and District 7 (Commissioner Dan Erhart).

But because of a gain/or loss of 5 percent or more of the average district population, District 1 (Commissioner Matt Look), District 2 (Commissioner Andy Westerberg) and District 3 (Commissioner Robyn West), who were all elected to four-year terms in 2010, now find themselves back on the ballot again two years later.

Only County Commissioner Jim Kordiak in District 4, re-elected two years ago, won’t be on the ballot this year and will get to serve out his term until 2014 as the population shift in his district was a gain/loss of under 5 percent and did not meet the threshold.

But the redistricting plan also means that two of the six seats on this year’s ballot will only have two-year terms and will be back on the ballot in 2014.

According to Sivarajah, District 5 (LeDoux) and 7 (Erhart) were chosen for the two-year terms because they did not have to be on the ballot in 2002 as a result of the redistricting plan that followed the 2000 U.S. Census.

In drawing up the plan, Sivarajah said the committee tried to follow natural boundaries where possible and tried to make the districts more compact, Sivarajah said.

For example, that meant some shifting in boundaries in Blaine between District 3 (West) and District 6 (Sivarajah), according to Sivarajah.

In addition, the redistricting map avoids having four commissioner districts in one city, which would have meant that community would have majority representation on the board, Sivarajah said.

As well, the committee had to evaluate the minority population in the county to determine if there is a concentration of minority population within the county to link together for the purpose of electing a county commissioner, according to Sivarajah in her report to the board.

“Consequently, we have made no attempt to create a district based on racial characteristics,” Sivarajah wrote.

Under law, in redrawing county board district boundaries, the committee had to take the 2010 U.S. Census population total for the county, then divide it by seven (the number of county board districts) to come up with an average population per district, according to Sivarajah in her interview.

The percentage population difference for each district could not be more than 10 percent greater or less than the average district population, Sivarajah said.

The redistricting plan presented to the board Tuesday meets that requirement, she said.

Changes in the 2012 county board boundaries from the 2002 redistricting plan include:

• All of Oak Grove is now in District 1; before two-thirds was in District 2.

• Bethel moves from District 1 to District 2.

• Two precincts on the west side of Andover move from District 1 to District 7.

• A precinct in the northwest corner of Fridley shifts from District 3 to District 5.

• Part of Spring Lake Park is now in District 4, instead of all of it being in District 3.

• A new precinct created in northeast Blaine will be in District 6 instead of District 2 because of legislative boundary changes.

The board unanimously approved the redistricting plan without comment Tuesday.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]