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Residents asked to weigh in on Otter Tail County redistricting plans; public hearing April 26

It's likely that under any one of the new plans, all five county commissioners will need to run for reelection this November.

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Otter Tail County's four possible redistricting maps will be discussed at a public hearing on Tuesday, April 26 at 10 a.m at the Otter Tail County Government Services Center in Fergus Falls.
Michael Achterling / Perham Focus

PERHAM — Otter Tail County has posted four possible county redistricting maps, and they'll be up for debate during a public hearing on Tuesday, April 26.

The new districts will be decided on during the hearing in order to comply with the state's mandated deadline, said Wayne Stein, auditor-treasurer for Otter Tail County. He also said it's more than likely that all five county commissioners will need to run for reelection this November under their new districts, because more than 5% of the voters will have changed districts during the reorganization.

"The plans that are there, any one of them, I believe...would require all five (commissioners) to run," said Stein.

The county didn't change its district lines 10 years ago because the current map at the time was within the 10% margin of total residents per district, he said, but that isn't the case anymore. If the maps didn't change this time around, he added, the county would have a "non-compliant" map.

"I believe all four of (the proposed maps) meet the statutory requirements because no one (district) is outside the 10% range," Stein said. "Obviously, the goal is to get as close to the average (12,016 residents) as you can."

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In crafting the map proposals, Stein said, "Mine are basically worked from the outside corners in — that's how I worked it, because if you work from the corners in, you are actually going to bring the districts together at a certain point, so we can move things around a little easier."

One of the major problems with the current district breakdown is that District 1, represented by Commissioner Dan Bucholz, has too many residents and District 3, represented by Commissioner Kurt Mortenson, has too few.

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Current Otter Tail County district map, which was approved after the 2000 U.S. Census.
Contributed / Otter Tail County website

"(Districts 1 and 3) don't touch each other, so one has too many and one has too few, and we probably could've redistricted them in a lot easier way with a lot fewer moves, if they would've touched each other," he said. "It might have made it a little simpler to come up with a plan if they would've touched each other, because we could've just pulled some away from (District 1) and given it to the (District 3) that had too few."

Stein also said they could've asked Fergus Falls to re-balance its wards in a way that would help the county with its maps, since the city resides within District 5 and District 3, but the county didn't ask them and the city has already finalized their maps.

Stein said he's already had some public interest and feedback on the county maps.

"Not that my memory is perfect from 10 years ago, because it's not, but I don't remember any interest being shown 10 years ago," he added.

Commissioner Bucholz spoke about the proposed redistricting plans during a Perham City Council meeting on Monday, April 11. He told council members about the four proposed plans and that commissioners will be voting on the measure during their April 26 public hearing. He hoped Perham residents would voice their endorsements or concerns during that hearing.

An hour has been set aside for debating the four plans at the public hearing, but that time could be increased if the public shows a greater interest this time around, Stein said.

Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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