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Published December 01, 2011, 10:13 PM

GF Redrawing Ward Lines Due to City Growth

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - Some residents will be voting from different precincts in the next city election in June. The city is redistricting its wards, and a committee of three council members met Thursday night to discuss proposed changes.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - Some residents will be voting from different precincts in the next city election in June. The city is redistricting its wards, and a committee of three council members met Thursday night to discuss proposed changes.

The nearly 53,000 people living in Grand Forks are spreading to the south and to the west and the city's seven wards need to move with them. City staff is working on making the wards a little more equal.

"We tried to make the wards that are shrinking, make those a little bit larger and the ones that are growing make them a little bit smaller," Senior Planner Ryan Brooks said.

The city's Planning and Zoning Department is keeping the population of each ward around 7,500 people. Right now some, like Ward 6, have more than 9,000 people. While others, like Ward 4, have fewer than 7,000 people.

"There's six or seven criteria. Of course population is the number one issue. One of the other issues was to be as best close to the district lines," Ward 7 City Council Member Curt Kreun said.

To prevent gerrymandering, the department used guidance from several supreme court cases to draw the lines. Top priorities were to keep the wards compact and to keep neighborhoods together.

"Population is the driving force," Kreun said.

City planners also had to take recent state redistricting into account when mapping out the new wards.

"They made two small tweaks that we had to adjust our ward boundaries with that, so it worked out pretty well," Brooks said.

Redistricting usually happens every ten years with new census data. So this new map will need to take the future of Grand Forks growth into consideration.

"So what we're able to do is put some population in the lower populated areas and give us a little bit of space in the areas that are growing. And so we should stay even numbered to that 7,500 pretty close," Kreun said.

The entire council will hold two public hearings on the committee's plan before it becomes an ordinance. Next, Brooks and his staff will break the new wards up into precincts.

"Now there's 26 polling places. We're trying to get that down a little bit, but at the same time be aware of where the voters need to still have a place that's close and convenient," Brooks said.

Grand Forks County has 43 precincts, which is the most in the state. County Auditor Debbie Nelson suggested reducing the number in the city of Grand Forks, which currently has 26. She suggested having one per legislative district.

The new precinct map will be set by resolution. That doesn't require a public hearing. That map has to be done by the end of this year. The new ward map will be done in January.

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