Court upholds new city ward lines

U.S. District Judge John Tunheim has rejected a lawsuit brought by Green Party members challenging the new Minneapolis City Council boundaries.

"After a thorough review of the plan chosen by the Redistricting Commission and careful consideration of the extensive record in this case, the Court can reach only one obvious conclusion: the City's plan passes all legal and constitutional tests and as such it is a plan well done," he wrote in a 37-page ruling.

The boundaries go into effect in January 2006, after the November 2005 city elections.

Plaintiffs included City Councilmembers Natalie Johnson Lee (5th Ward) and Dean Zimmermann (6th Ward), both Green Party members. Zimmermann was redistricted out of his ward and, if he doesn't move, would have to run against DFL incumbent Gary Schiff (9th Ward).

Zimmermann called the ruling "disappointing."

"If the courts can't see the obvious gerrymandering going on here, I guess I don't know what hope there is," he said.

The suit had many allegations, including charges that the Redistricting Commission:

– Gerrymandered districts to hurt Green Party candidates;

– Violated the Voting Rights Act by packing African American voters in the 5th District and splintering the Native American vote in the 6th and 9th wards; and

– Violated public hearing requirements, because the map ultimately approved was significantly changed from the map shown at public hearings.

Tunheim rejected the arguments. "That other parties or interest, or even the Court for that matter, may have chosen a different plan is immaterial," he wrote. "The plaintiffs challenge fails."

A separate suit seeking earlier city election than November 2005 remains alive.