Herald JournalHerald Journal, July 19, 2004

Too much Hutch?
Lawsuit filed against county,
Hutchinson over redistricting

By Rich Glennie, McLeod County Chronicle

Doug Krueger of rural Glencoe filed a lawsuit on Tuesday morning in McLeod County District Court in an attempt to get the county to redistrict its five county commissioner districts in a more equitable way.

“This is the only avenue to go,” Krueger said, “There are no other options.” He said past attempts to get the county board to consider appeals for more equitable representation through normal political channels have fallen on deaf ears.

Named as defendants in the complaint are McLeod County, County Auditor Cindy Schultz, the city of Hutchinson and Hutchinson City Administrator Gary Plotz.

Krueger ran for a county board position from the Glencoe area in 2002, but said he realized no matter if he had won, “I could not do much different than the incumbent.”

With the three precincts in Hutchinson in three separate commissioner districts, Hutchinson was almost guaranteed three votes on the five-member county board.

That is what has happened since the 1992 redistricting and was reaffirmed with the 2002 redistricting plan approved by the county board.

While Hutchinson makes up about one-third of the county’s population, Krueger said it controls 60 percent of the county board, and that is unfair representation, especially for rural McLeod County.

Krueger said he is filing the lawsuit for those residents in McLeod County who are underrepresented on the county board. “I’m hoping people will speak up. There have been so many people who have lost hope.”

But Krueger said he also knows there are no guarantees that the courts will rule in his favor.

The legal complaint claims three violations of the Minnesota Constitution, according to Krueger’s attorney, Alan W. Weinblatt of Weinblatt & Gaylord PLC of St. Paul.

Count I is discrimination by the county’s redistricting, and that discrimination is over “the right to be rural,” Weinblatt said.

He said the county’s redistricting in 1992 and again in 2002, aided and abetted by the city of Hutchinson, “discriminates against the right to be rural.”

Count II violates the right for equal protection under the law, Weinblatt said.

He said the history of the county board’s actions indicated it was an intentional denial of equal protection, and the actions have been successful “not just for one election, or two or three, but continuously.”

Weinblatt said the violations have spanned two decades “and nothing can be done (politically).” He said the dominance of the three Hutchinson representatives was provided by the county’s redistricting plan.

Count III is a violation of due process, Weinblatt said. He said what is unfair is that Glencoe and the rural portions of the county “don’t have a fair shake, are denied due process.”

He said Hutchinson, by population, should have 1.75 representatives on the county board, yet Hutchinson has three. “That is not a fair process.”

Weinblatt said the defendants have 20 days to respond to the complaint.

Another route is to ask for a summary judgment, which does not require a formal trial, Weinblatt said. If the ruling goes against one side, there is always an appeal process.

Whether any court ruling can be handed down before the November general elections is to be seen, Weinblatt said, but that is the aim of the complaint.

He also is contemplating seeking temporary relief, “which would speed up the process more.”

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