Redistricting leaves two wards without local representation

Stephanie Kudrle

Six Minneapolis residents – including one state representative – sued the city and its City Council over what they call an “equal representation issue.”

The group, led by Democratic state Rep. Phyllis Kahn, wants city council elections held this fall to place council members in districts that were redrawn after the 2000 Census.

The next council elections are set for 2005 – and two wards now have representatives who do not live in their districts.

“The basic principle is one person, one vote,” Kahn said. “There are some wards with no representatives living within the boundaries.”

Ward 3 – which includes all of the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood and part of southeast Como, where many University students live – does not currently have a representative living in the district.

The redrawn wards were approved in April 2002, and current council members were elected in 2001.

Don Samuels, who now represents Ward 3, lives in Ward 5, which already has a council member representing it. Samuels said he is unsure whether he will run in Ward 3 or Ward 5 in the next election.

“I don’t want to move,” Samuels said. “My neighbors were the core of my campaign and pressed me to run for office.”

Kahn said because of situations like Ward 3 – where no council member lives within the boundaries – elections should be held sooner than 2005.

“Redistricting should be done more than every 10 years,” she said. “Minnesota is still serving in lines from the 1990 census.”

Ward 8 is also represented by a council member who lives outside the new district lines.

Federal law requires redistricting every 10 years, after the Census. The city must redraw district lines to match changes in city or state populations.

But attorney David Schultz, who represents Kahn and the other plaintiffs, said Minneapolis’ failure to hold new City Council elections based on Census 2000 violates state and federal law.

“These districts won’t be represented until 2005,” he said. “That’s halfway until the next Census.”

The lawsuit is currently in federal court, after the city argued the issue falls under federal law.

Gail Plewacki, communications director for the city of Minneapolis, said the move to federal court was a strategic decision.

“It’s where the city felt it had the best chance,” she said.

Kahn said moving the suit to federal court is the city’s attempt to delay action. Last week, Kahn and others filed a motion to bring the case back to state court.

“We need to bring the suit back to state to get a quicker judgment,” Kahn said.

Samuels said he opposes early election and said immediate elections would be more damaging than waiting two years.

“Harm will be done if we have to expedite an election,” he said. “We would have to raise money in a short amount of time Ö especially in a new district where nobody knows me.”