Know When to Say When

Charges of gerrymandering continue to plague north Minneapolis'S fifth ward.

FOR MOST PEOPLE, November 4 has been the past for a couple of weeks now. The ballot boxes, felt-tip pins, yard placards, and tiny, red "I voted" stickers are all but faded memories. Except, that is, for City Council hopeful Thomas Johnson, Minneapolis's own real-life Agent Mulder. Instead of conceding defeat and settling in for another four years of badgering incumbent Jackie Cherryhomes, Johnson wants the Ward 5 election called back. In tones that resonate like dialogue from a political version of The X Files, he claims he's been cheated.

Johnson, who is African American, swears his substantial loss to the incumbent, who is white, had to have had something to do with her and the city Elections Department's elimination of "vital, black" voting sites on the North Side. Johnson lost to Cherryhomes in 1993, and to hear him tell it, the same flaws in the system are at fault this time. In fact, Johnson claims that one of the precincts he won in '93 was "destroyed" when Elections Director Joyce Swadner and Cherryhomes replaced a polling place at North Community High School with one in a senior-citizen highrise. Johnson says it's gerrymandering; Cherryhomes and Swadner say it was an attempt to make it easier for seniors to vote. But anyone who's watched The X Files knows that people involved in a conspiracy are bound by their insidious fraternity to keep their lips buttoned.

Nevertheless, Johnson has asked U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug to investigate. A story appearing in last week's Minneapolis Spokesman/Recorder (written by someone who worked for Johnson's campaign) claims Lillehaug "has found enough interest in Johnson's charges of misconduct to alert Minnesota Attorney General [Skip Humphrey]." Lillehaug received the complaint, but says it was Johnson who forwarded the complaint to Humphrey's office. "Our office has made no claims as to the validity of his complaints," remarked Lillehaug. "We've just tried to make sure it gets to proper channels."

 
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