Otter Tail County approves new redistricting map, courtesy of a single resident's pencil and eraser

Vergas resident and business owner Marcia Huddleston worked for several hours on her redistricting plan, something she had never attempted before. Her plan offers a minimal population difference between districts — less of a difference than any of the plans previously presented by the county — and was so well-received by all that commissioners approved it during a public hearing on the redistricting on Tuesday, April 26.

Otter Tail County Commissioners approved a new redistricting plan after public hearing on Tuesday, April 26.
Otter Tail County Commissioners approved a new redistricting plan after public hearing on Tuesday, April 26.
Contributed / Otter Tail County

PERHAM — Otter Tail County's new redistricting plan is more balanced than it would have been, thanks to a grassroots individual effort by Vergas resident and business owner Marcia Huddleston.

With a pencil and eraser, Huddleston worked for several hours on the plan, which offers a minimal population difference between districts — less of a difference than any of the four plans presented by the county had offered.

Huddleston, who owns Vergas Hardware with other family members, provided Otter Tail County Commissioners in mid-April with the plan she had created, and it was so well-received by all that commissioners approved it on Tuesday, April 26, during the public hearing on the redistricting.

“When it came out in the newspapers that they were creating new districts, I had four people talk to me (about it),” Huddleston said, noting that inspired her to try her hand at creating a district map of the county — something she had never done before.

Vergas resident Marcia Huddleston created Otter Tail County's new redistricting map herself, spending several hours on it and using just a pencil and eraser.
Contributed / Marcia Huddleston

When she submitted her plan to Otter Tail County Auditor-Treasurer Wayne Stein, she didn’t know the district populations would be a big factor in the commissioners’ decision about which map to approve.


Huddleston has resided in Otter Tail County since 1980, is a founding member of the Otter Tail County Conservative Coalition, and said she takes pride in where she lives.

“I do try to make a difference in this county; it means a lot to me,” she said.

Huddleston’s plan was submitted on Thursday, April 14, but was not posted for public review until four days prior to the redistricting hearing. Stein said there was a delay in publicly posting the plan because it had to be checked to ensure it followed state requirements. He also informed commissioners at the hearing that he had left town the day after the plan was submitted; but upon returning, due diligence was done to review it — after which, it was made public.

Otter Tail County Attorney Michelle Eldien stated in a phone call that there is no provision requiring commissioners to only consider district maps submitted prior to a set date. In fact, she said, if a member of the public had presented a plan at the hearing, it still could’ve been considered.

jellison speaks.jpg
Perham man Terry Jellison (right, standing) provided Otter Tail County Commissioners and members of the public who were at the redistricting public hearing on Tuesday, April 26 with a simplified breakdown of population differences between the county's redistricting map proposals.
Screen capture / Otter Tail County Commission

Perham resident Terry Jellison attended the hearing and provided a simple breakdown of population differences between the four redistricting maps that were originally being considered. Initially, he supported a plan other than Huddleston’s. However, after crunching the population numbers, he said, he changed his mind.

According to his calculations, the population difference in Huddleston’s plan totaled 657. In the other plans being considered, the population differences ranged from 899 to 1,162.

Jellison wasn’t the only person to change his mind after the map by Huddleston was presented. One woman at the hearing said she thought a plan titled Number One (with a population difference of 899) was good, “until the public submission came along and that threw Number One under the bus.”

The number breakdown provided by Jellison made it easy for commissioners, and the others attending the hearing, to see the population difference of each plan. Jellison said he “spent maybe eight hours total” calculating the numbers.


Jellison has served as Gorman Township Clerk and also taught government and civics, which is where his passion for the democratic process originated, he said.

“I’m aware of the concept of gerrymandering, which gives one group an advantage over another, or it sets up an individual to win or prevent someone else from getting in,” he said. “I wanted to make certain no politics were involved and it was done strictly by population and the rules.”

Jellison complimented Stein for his communication and for providing population data. He also applauded the commissioners for considering how to handle county growth, as well as the 20-plus residents who showed up at the hearing to share their opinions on the redistricting plans.

Jellison said that after reviewing the information, the most obvious reason for the need to redefine the districts in the county is Perham's population growth.

The redistricting process happens every 10 years to ensure residents are equally represented.

According to state statute, Otter Tail County's new redistricting plan becomes effective on the 31st day after its filed with the County Auditor's office (and no plan is effective for the next election unless the plan is filed with the County Auditor at least 14 days before candidate filing).

Redistricting plan breakdown

The new plan in Otter Tail County places the following townships in District One: Hobart, Gorman, Corliss, Butler, Paddock, Edna, Perham, Pine Lake, Homestead, Blowers, Dead Lake, Rush Lake and Otto. The cities of Perham, Dent and Richville are also in District One.

The former District One, led by Commissioner Dan Bucholz, also included Newton Township and the city of New York Mills, which have now been moved to District Four. It also did not include Otto Township, which used to be in District 4.


The new District Two includes the townships of: Scambler, Dunn, Candor, Dora, Lida, Pelican, Norwegian Grove, Trondhjem, Erhards Grove, Maplewood, Star Lake, Oscar, Elizabeth, Frieberg, Carlisle and Fergus Falls. The cities of Pelican Rapids, Vergas, Rothsay, Erhard and Elizabeth are also in District Two.

Previously District Two, which is represented by Commissioner Wayne Johnson, also included Aurdal Township, which was moved to District Three in the newly approved map. The townships of Oscar, Carlisle and Fergus Falls are new additions to the district.

In the new District Three, the townships are: Aurdal, Sverdrup, Everts, Girard, Orwell, Buse, Dane Prairie, Tordenskjold, Clitherall, Nidaros, Western, Aastad, Tumuli, Saint Olaf, Eagle Lake, Leaf Mountain and Effington. The cities of Battle Lake, Dalton, Clitherall, Urbank, Vining, Fergus Falls Ward one, precinct two and Underwood are also included.

Before, District Three, which is represented by Kurt Mortenson, also included the townships of Carlisle, Oscar, Fergus Falls and the City of Rothsay (all of which were moved to District Two).

The city of Fergus Falls has four precincts and are represented by Commissioner Leland Rogness.

The new District Four will include the townships of: Newton, Bluffton, Maine, Amor, Otter Tail, Leaf Lake, Deer Creek, Compton, Henning, Inman, Oak Valley, Folden, Elmo, Woodside, Parkers Prairie and Eastern. It also includes the cities of Bluffton, Deer Creek, Henning, Ottertail Parkers Prairie, New York Mills and Wadena.

District Four, which is represented by Betty Murphy, formerly included the township of Otto, which was moved to District One, and the townships of Effington, Girard, Nidaros, and the city of Urbank, which were all moved to District Three.

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