County board adopts redistricting principles

New commissioner district boundaries will be determined by April 17

Washington County commissioners adopted principles March 20 to set county commissioner districts for coming elections.

The board must set district boundaries based on the results of the 2010 census. The board has determined it will set the new district boundaries by April 17, so it may comply with a deadline for redistricting soil and water conservation districts.

On March 13, the board discussed a draft of principles that will govern redistricting. The board also determined that those principles will state that the number of board members will remain at five.

At the Tuesday, March 20 meeting, the county board established principles for redistricting, which are:

•Number of districts: The county will have five commissioner districts with a single commissioner for each district.

•Population deviation: Districts will meet the population deviation required by state statute, unless doing so is not possible because of the lack of authority to split precincts.

•Contiguous territory: Each district shall be composed of contiguous territory.

•Regular and compact in form: Districts must be regular and compact in form to the extent practicable considering the geography and of other principles.

•Relationship to other boundaries: Districts will be drawn using town, municipal, ward or precinct lines established by the cities and townships.

•State and Constitutional standards: The redistricting plan shall conform with all applicable statutory and constitutional standards.

•Dividing political subdivisions: The plan will avoid the dividing of political subdivisions unless necessary to meet the principle of equal population.

•Notice of Intent to Redistrict: Before acting to redistrict commissioner districts, the county shall publish notice (at least three weeks in advance) of the time and date of the meeting at which redistricting will be considered and will provide public notice of all meetings related to redistricting and provide opportunity for public input throughout the process.

•Preserving communities of interest: Districts should attempt to preserve communities of interest, i.e., areas with similarities of interests, including but not limited to, racial, ethnic, geographic, social and cultural interests where that can be done in compliance with the other principles.

•Minority representation: Districts shall not be drawn with either the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the voting rights of any county citizen on account of race, ethnicity, or membership in a language minority group.

•Incumbents: Districts shall not be drawn for the purpose of protecting or defeating incumbents and should not result in either undue incumbent protection or excessive incumbent conflicts.

•Staggered terms: In determining which commissioner districts will have two-year terms to allow for staggered terms as required by the law, the county board shall consider which commissioner districts were given two-year terms as part of the previous two redistricting plans and rotate the two-year terms equally amongst the given districts.