St. Louis County District Court File No. C5-02-601437
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Stoneburner, Judge; and
I. The validity of a county redistricting plan is determined by application of the standards in the county-redistricting statute, Minn. Stat. § 375.025 (2002), which conform with the requirements for minimum population deviation prescribed by federal law.
II. The county redistricting statute requires that the county board consider and select a plan creating districts that satisfy both the ten-percent-or-less-population deviation and the as-nearly-equal-in-population-as-possible standards.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Toussaint, Chief Judge
On appeal from the district court's invalidation of the county board's redistricting plan and subsequent appointment of a redistricting commission, appellant county board argues that a redistricting plan with a ten-percent-or-less-population deviation among districts is prima facie valid and may be implemented with no justification by the board. Because we find no error in the district court's findings and conclusion that the board failed to satisfy the standards of the Minnesota county-redistricting statute, we affirm the court's determination that the plan is invalid and a redistricting commission was required.
Appellant St. Louis County Board of Commissioners (the board) is composed of seven commissioners, each representing one district. Respondent Joanne Fay is one of those commissioners. After the 2000 Federal Census showed a St. Louis County population of 200,528, the parties agreed that redistricting was necessary.
The board considered several proposed redistricting schemes. Pursuant to published notice, a public hearing was held on May 21, 2002. At the public hearing, the county auditor submitted three plans and a commissioner submitted two alternatives. The board then discussed the plans and referred three plans, Plan A, Alternate 1, and Alternate 2, to the next board meeting for final resolution. The minutes reflect that on May 28, the board, the auditor, and a resident addressed the plans. After motions to adopt Plan A failed and Alternate 2 died without support, Alternate 1 was adopted with two dissenters, Commissioners Fink and Fay.
On June 4, Commissioner Fay petitioned for a writ of mandamus. She claimed that adoption of Alternate 1 "was effected by the [board] without applying or adhering to the standards and criteria set forth in Minn. Stat. § 375.025, subd. 1," specifically that (1) the population deviation exceeded ten percent and (2) the districts were not "as nearly equal in population as possible."
On July 1, the district court determined that the plan adopted at the May 28 meeting violated Minn. Stat. § 375.025 and the Minnesota and United States Constitutions. The court "respectfully commanded" that the board adopt a plan in compliance with the statute and the constitutions. Specifically, the court ordered that the plan was null and void and that the board must comply with the requirement that the districts "be as nearly equal in population as possible and vary in population no more than 10 percent from the average population for all such districts in the County." The court set out the proper computation to determine compliance.
After the board heard the county attorney explain the court's July 1 order, they moved the redistricting matter to a later meeting. The board reconvened on July 8. The county attorney detailed redistricting plans that would fall within the "ten percent deviation deemed acceptable by the court." After a motion to approve Alternate 2 failed, two commissioners successfully moved to adopt a new alternate, Plan XI. The minutes of the meeting conclude with: "Commissioner Fay insisted the redistricting deviation could ...