MARSHALL - A possible plan for redistricting Marshall's voting wards will be going before the city council this month.
While the proposal leaves most of the current ward boundaries untouched, some Marshall residents would go from voting in Wards 2 or 3 to voting in Ward 1.
"Hopefully, we've clarified some boundary confusion and made the wards as equal as practicable," Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes said of the proposal.
Members of the Marshall City Council discussed a total of five redistricting options during a work session last week. All of the options had their own strengths and weaknesses, Byrnes said, but council members were able to reach a consensus on one of them, which will be officially introduced at the council's next regular meeting Tuesday.
The redistricting option that will be introduced expands the boundaries of Marshall Ward 1 slightly into areas that are currently part of Ward 2 and Ward 3. The new part of the Ward 1 boundaries would extend along Southview Drive to Main Street to South Saratoga Street, north along Saratoga to College Drive, and along College Drive to West Marshall Street.
Redistricting is done every 10 years, when new census data is released to Minnesota cities and counties. According to the 2010 census results, Byrnes said, "The entire city has grown by about 7.5 percent, but that growth wasn't uniform. The population center of the community has continued to move south."
Most of that southward growth happened in Ward 2. Currently, the population in Ward 2 is 4,970 people, compared to 4,658 people in Ward 1 and 4,052 people in Ward 3.
Population totals for voting wards need to be as equal as is practical, and can't be off from each other by more than 10 percent, said Marshall City Clerk Tom Meulebroeck. That meant the area of Ward 2 needed to be reduced.
To set new boundaries, the city of Marshall collaborated with the Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer's Office and the county Geographic Information Systems office. Using 2010 census data, GIS Coordinator Ryan Wendt and Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer Paula VanOverbeke mapped out possible options to help even out the population in Marshall's wards. Both the Marshall Charter Commission and the city council reviewed the options.
In addition to meeting population requirements, Byrnes said the council wanted a redistricting plan that would "create the least confusion for the voting public." The main positives of the option being brought before the council are that the ward boundaries follow major city streets and are smoother where the three wards meet.
Under the redistricting proposal, the population total for Ward 1 would be 4,659. The population for Ward 2 would be 4,598, and Ward 3's population would be 4,423. None of the current city council members would be changed by the proposal, Meulebroeck and Byrnes said.
The redistricting proposal will be officially introduced to the council at its meeting Tuesday, Byrnes said. At that time, it will be open for public comment. The city's deadline to approve new city wards is April 3.
Marshall's redistricting proposal will have an effect on county redistricting as well, said Sue Paradis of the Auditor/Treasurer's Office. Three of Lyon County's Commissioner districts include Marshall city wards, so the county will need to wait until the city redistricting process is complete before starting its own.
The county has until May 1 to approve new districts, Paradis said.