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HomeNewsFour-Year-Old Districting Error by Cook County Derails Thompson Candidacy for District 4...

Four-Year-Old Districting Error by Cook County Derails Thompson Candidacy for District 4 Commissioner

Arvis Thompson is a pleasant, retired woman. She’s a wife, mother, and grand­mother who has called Colvill, MN (an unin­corporated community in Cook County) home since 1976.

Thompson is not just a retiree, but an active member of the com­munity. From leading a Girl Scout troop to managing the sched­uling and cleaning of the Colvill Town Hall, she is a familiar face in Colvill. She also keeps a close eye on the county govern­ment, attending the most publicly scheduled meetings of the Board of Commissioners and voicing her concerns during the public com­ments section.

Thompson, a retir­ee dedicated to her community, saw an opportunity to serve when no one besides the incumbent Ann Sullivan had filed for election to the Coun­ty Board in District 4. She filed for office on June 3, but a so-called districting error blind­sided her campaign. She was summoned to a meeting with Cook County Auditor/Trea­surer Braidy Powers on Friday, June 14, and informed that her residence and that of 22 of her neighbors were not in District 4, even though she had voted for a District 4 commissioner candi­dacy in the November 2022 election.

The news of the dis­tricting error spread like wildfire in the Colvill community. Residents knew that the county board had changed the commis­sioner district they lived in from District 1 to District 4 for the 2022 elections. What was supposed to be a routine bureaucratic process has now be­come a source of con­fusion and anger, po­tentially disrupting the upcoming elections.

Following the 2020 Census, Cook County reviewed its commis­sion district boundar­ies. The county board approved new district boundaries in April 2022, in time for any primary and the three general elections for the next decade.

According to a press release announcing the error issued by the county on June 17, the county “used multiple mapping resources as reference information to update the State Voter Registration System (SVRS). These resources included a Geographic Informa­tion Systems map layer of US Census blocks, from which voting pre­cincts must be derived, and another of the County’s official road data.”

The release also seems to say Thomp­son deliberately filed for the office, know­ing she wasn’t a dis­trict resident. That is not true. It said, “This error likely led to one candidate for county commissioner who ac­tually lives in District 1 believing they should file for election in Dis­trict 4.”

At the June 14 meet­ing, Powers indicated that the error follow­ing the 2020 census involved 23 residents assigned to District 4 in 2022. Powers told Thompson that some­time after the candi­date filing deadline on June 4, one of those 23 residents, whom he wouldn’t name, com­plained to his office about the districting error, calling it to the county’s attention.

As a solution, she was given two options. The first was to contin­ue as a candidate for the District 4 seat, pro­vided she moved into the district 30 days or more before election day. Alternatively, she was offered the services of the county attorney to sue to have her name removed from the ballot. If suc­cessful, the judge’s order would open up a five-day window for anyone else in District 4 who wished to stand for election.

State law considers population variables between districts to be less than 10% accept­able. With five dis­tricts, the average pop­ulation is 1,120. The 23 voters affected here represent just 2% of the average.

Those 23 voters were assigned to Dis­trict 4 for the 2022 elections. There will be elections in Dis­trict 4 this year, again in 2028, and finally in 2032, when presum­ably redistricting will have happened again.

Having the county acknowledge it made a slight error, an error legally accepted by the board while keeping the district boundary as it was in 2022 for the next two general elections was not pre­sented as an option.

Instead, a woman who did everything right after careful­ly deciding to stand for election to a vital county office is being shunted aside.

With election con­spiracies a hot-button issue, it’s small won­der that Thompson reports some of her supporters have told her the entire matter has occurred because “someone” doesn’t want her in that office.

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Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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