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County's voting boundaries to change with redistricting

Thursday, July 14, 2011

(Graphic Contributed) Several voting precinct boundary lines in Plymouth County will change as a result of statewide redistricting. Shown here are the new proposed precincts, which would be effective for elections after Jan. 15, 2012.
Plymouth County's voting precincts must be altered because it has new House and Senate districts, following statewide redistricting.

The Plymouth County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved new voting precinct lines based on recommendations from the county's redistricting and reprecincting committee.

Redistricting and reprecincting is required every 10 years following the Census. The county's proposed voting boundaries reflect 2010 population numbers.

"The House and Senate districts are changing all over the state," said Stacey Feldman, county auditor. "We (now) have how it's going to affect Plymouth County."

Plymouth County will include House District 5 and 3 and Senate District 2 and 3, she said.

Per law, a voting precinct cannot contain more than one House or Senate district, which meant combining some existing Plymouth County townships and cities into one precinct.

That means the county can maintain 13 precincts instead of creating another, which would have had a price tag of around $12,000, Feldman said.

"I would have to buy two new machines. I would have to staff another precinct with five election officials on the primaries and generals and any countywide special elections at x dollars times 16 hours a day," Feldman said.

Generally, when counties create voting precincts it's because of population growth, she said.

For example, Dallas County has to make around 20 new precincts because of the growth in population in West Des Moines, Feldman explained.

Creating a new precinct in Plymouth County wouldn't have been due to an increase in population, but rather because of the House and Senate district split, she said.

To avoid creating a new precinct, the committee combined several precincts into one, which in turn, will alter where some voters cast their ballots, Feldman said.

For example, one precinct will include the cities of Craig and Brunsville with Preston, Grant, Johnson and Washington townships under the new proposal, she said.

Those two cities and the four townships will vote at the Brunsville Legion, whereas before Craig residents voted in Craig, Feldman said.

In addition, Meadow, Remsen, Henry and Garfield township residents will now be in one precinct and would vote at the American Bank, in Remsen, she said.

Supervisor Jack Guenthner said he and other reprecincting committee members were initially concerned that people living in Garfield Township in the southeastern part of the county wouldn't drive all the way to Remsen to vote.

However, it was determined that most of the people living in Garfield township vote by absentee ballot anyway, Guenthner said.

The city of Le Mars voting precinct boundaries were also modified so all three precincts would contain less than 3,500 people, per law, based on the county's overall population of 24,986.

Those three precincts also correlate to the city of Le Mars voting wards.

All the precinct boundary changes take effect with any election held after Jan. 15, 2012, according to state requirements.

Guenthner said some people in the affected precincts may be unhappy with the changes, but that the committee was satisfied with its proposal.

"This is the best possible plan we thought we could come up with," he said.

Guenthner, Dennis Wolf, representing the Democratic party, and Ralph Klemme, representing the Republicans, made up the reprecincting committee.

They worked in conjunction with Feldman and Shawn Olson, county IT director, in the reprecincting and redistricting process.

The proposed precinct plan approved by the supervisors Tuesday replaces one that was presented at a previous meeting.

A public hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Aug. 2 to give county residents an opportunity to comment on the new proposed voting precincts.

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