City Council tables proposed new ward boundaries

The Bemidji City Council tabled the proposed new ward boundaries.

With the proposed redistricting of Ward 1 further north to 23rd Street on the eastern side of Irvine Avenue, Ward 3’s Ron Johnson would be drawn out of his district from his home on Beltrami Court.

Johnson’s been representing Ward 3 since 2000 and is into his sixth term, having won his re-election bid in 2020.

Ward 1’s Audrey Thayer, Ward 2’s Josh Peterson, Ward 5’s Lynn Eaton, and Mayor Jorge Prince voted along with Johnson to not move the proposed boundaries to a second hearing.

The council will schedule a special work session so they can provide more input on the boundaries.

City Clerk Michelle Miller reported to the council that her staff worked on the maps after they received the order from the state on Feb. 19.

Miller said among the common issues she sees on election day with the current ward boundaries is around the BSU dorms.

Under the current boundaries, the BSU dorm areas are split into two wards, but in the proposed boundary, all dorm residents would vote in Ward 1.

March 29 is the set deadline for municipal redistricting.

The city would have missed the deadline even if the first hearing cleared the council because it would need to go through the formal three-reading process, which can only happen during regular council meetings on the first and third Mondays of the month.

Beltrami County will not be able to begin its redistricting process until Bemidji completes its maps.

The Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office recommends that municipalities, townships, and counties work together to ensure a smooth process.

The candidate filing period for federal, state, county, municipal, and, in most cases, school board seats is May 17 through May 31.

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