Rice County District Court File No. C802884
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge, Hudson, Judge, and
1. A county board must consider the equal population principle in redistricting its commissioner districts pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 375.025, subd. 1 (2002).
2. A district court has jurisdiction to consider a redistricting challenge as applied to future elections in a mandamus action.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hudson, Judge
This is an appeal from a writ of mandamus and denial of a motion for a new trial in which the district court ordered the county board of commissioners to reconsider its redistricting plan and to adopt a plan that complies with statutory and constitutional mandates. Appellant board contends (a) the district court erred as a matter of law in its redistricting decision and (b) because the district court had already ordered the county board to proceed using the challenged plan for the 2002 elections, it no longer had jurisdiction over the mandamus petition. We affirm, holding that (a) the district court acted properly because there was a showing that the board failed to consider the statutorily required equal population principle in choosing a redistricting plan; and (b) the district court retained jurisdiction to consider the redistricting challenge as applied to future elections after ordering the 2002 election to take place pursuant to the challenged plan.
After the 2000 census, the Rice County Board of Commissioners addressed whether it should redistrict its commissioner districts. It asserted that it was not compelled to do so because its districts were in compliance with the statutory requirements for maximum population deviation. But it determined redistricting was nonetheless necessary because one of its cities had changed its precinct boundaries, requiring an adjustment in the district boundaries.
The board gave the required public notice and held hearings. It was presented with 13 proposed plans, all of which divided Rice County, which has a population of 56,665, into five districts. If the five districts had equal populations they would each contain 11,333 people, but all of the plans deviated more or less from this ideal.
The board initially set out the various factors it would consider in making the redistricting decision, including contiguity, compactness, equal population, community of interest, and socio-economic concerns. In later discussions, several commissioners expressed their belief that because all of the proposed plans fell within the statutory requirement that "[n]o district shall vary in population more than ten percent from the average for all districts in the county," Minn. Stat. § 375.025, subd. 1 (2002), the equality of population factor had been met and did not need to be considered further. Another commissioner asserted that equality of population must nonetheless be considered.
The board focused primarily on two plans: the "Plaisance" plan, which was ultimately adopted, and the "Robins I" plan.
The Plaisance plan was as follows:
Population | Deviation from Ideal Population | Percentage of Deviation from Ideal
District 1 10,517 - 816 - 7.2%
District 2 12,370 1037 9.2%
District 3 10,552 - 781 - 6.9%
District 4 11,887 554 4.9%