Our view: Judge's ruling the right thing for Arbor Park
Herald editorial board The city of Grand Forks did not intentionally affect the vote when it held an election this summer at the Alerus Center. So says Judge Steven Marquart, who last week dismissed a case against the city, presumably setting in ...
Herald editorial board
The city of Grand Forks did not intentionally affect the vote when it held an election this summer at the Alerus Center. So says Judge Steven Marquart, who last week dismissed a case against the city, presumably setting in motion construction of a new building on the lot that formerly was Arbor Park.
It's been a winding road.
On June 20, voters in the city approved - by a 2,451 to 2,269 vote - to develop the park for commercial use. Park proponents wanted to save the lot as a park and monument to the 1997 flood. Those who wanted to develop the lot said it was never meant to be a park, but that it slowly became one in the aftermath of the flood.
After voters approved development in June, park proponents organized a lawsuit, claiming the city acted improperly when it only had voting at one location - the Alerus Center, on the west end of the city. The plaintiffs also claimed the city had wrongly disqualified two absentee ballots.
Marquart released his decision Friday, declaring the city "had no intent to suppress the vote total." He based his opinion on the accessibility of the Alerus Center to all city voters, as well as the city's difficulty in finding election workers.
We agree with Marquart.
Although it is not centrally located, the Alerus Center is a very accessible and traditional location for voting. We don't believe its location affected the vote one way or another. In fact, the ward with the largest turnout - Ward 5 - is the farthest ward from the Alerus Center. That ward brought in 1,057 voters, and they accounted for the largest differential of all of the wards. Among Ward 5 voters, 648 voted to develop the park, and 409 voted to save it. That's a difference of 239, and it meant a lot in an election decided by just 182 votes overall.
Park proponents claimed the Alerus is too far for many voters. For some, it would be an hours-long bus trip. Yet absentee voting - which is an easy process - alleviates that concern.
Mostly, we are glad Marquart threw out the case because we worry about precedent. Going forward, we want elections to stand, and not linger as losing sides coalesce and plot revenge campaigns that only will cost taxpayers money. In this case, Marquart also called upon the filing group to pay the city's legal fees.
However, we do have a suggestion to city leaders: In future elections, strongly consider what the park proponents have claimed was unfair about this most recent election.
Whereas we don't believe the single-voting site was unfair, it would be wise to think about that in the future so as to avoid any appearance that an election is being swayed, and also to avoid spending time-and possibly money-on frivolities after the fact.