Census prompts lengthy redistricting process

county commission 

Nancy Edmonds Hanson 

The growing population of Clay County – as revealed in the 2020 census – will mean new lines between some of the county’s five districts. But the lengthy process has only just begun.

Information services director Mark Sloan told the county commission Tuesday that the county’s growing population may mean that some of them run in districts that will be reconfigured in 2022. The changes are made necessary by growing numbers, especially in District 3 across the southern portion of the county.

State law requires that each of the county’s five commissioners represent a roughly equal number of residents, as must state legislative districts and city wards. The county’s total population of  65,318 – up 10.7% since the 2010 count – requires a target of about 13,000 people. Four of the district’s fall below that, from 11,422 in District 4 to 12,770 in District 5.

But the fifth, District 3, now encompasses 16,207 residents. Nor is equalizing the head count as easy as shifting one line: Districts 3 (south of Moorhead) and 4 (north of the city) do not share a common border. And if a shift affects more than 653 people, Sloan added, the commissioner representing that district must run for reelection with the new boundaries.

“It’s the third time [county auditor] Laurie Johnson and I have gone through this process together,” the information services manager noted. As they have before, the two will wait to go into action until the state and city equalize boundaries of subdivisions within their own territories, since the county’s districts must coincide with borders of other jurisdictions.

At that point, Sloan said, the county’s computerized GIS, or geographic information system, will generate a number of options. They will be presented to the commission for its decision by the deadline of April 26, 2022, in time for candidates to file for the 2022 election.

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