In 2012, Minnesotans will face an entirely new political map, based on the population shifts and demographic changes revealed by the 2010 Census.
That map will define Minnesota’s communities, determine which groups vote together and which are separated by political boundaries, and influence which politicians can run for office in what districts for a decade to come.
The first, tentative steps toward redrawing that map have only just begun in earnest with less than one month left to go in the Minnesota Legislature’s session, despite having to be fully in place by February 21 of next year.
House Republicans on Tuesday introduced their proposed redistricting map for the state’s 134 House of Representatives districts and 67 Senate districts.
On April 28, they pushed through HF 1547 on a party line vote of 70-62, a bill that sets the ground rules for redistricting the Legislature’s 134 House of Representatives seats, 67 Senate seats and eight U.S. Congressional seats.
The late movement toward a plan comes amid DFL concerns that there has been little or no effort made to include communities of color and diverse ethnicities, which account for almost all the state’s growth over the past decade. [Additional background on redistricting issues here.]
“We have not gone to north Minneapolis, we have not gone to south Minneapolis. We have not gone to any Tribal communities, we have not met with any Asian communities, and we have not met with any Hispanic communities,” said Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, who served on the House Redistricting Committee that put together the bill.
What’s at stake in Republican plan
A redistricting plan announced Monday and introduced Tuesday, May 3, by House Redistricting Chairwoman Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, would place 14 DFL legislators in districts that would force them to run against each other.
All but two of the fourteen DFLers hail from Minneapolis, St. Paul or first-ring suburbs including Maplewood, Fridley and Columbia Heights.
By contrast, only two Republican lawmakers would find themselves in the same district. In five other proposed legislative districts, one Republican and one DFL incumbent would find themselves potentially running against each other for re-election.
Here’s who would find themselves in the same districts, should the plan be adopted:
The proposed legislative map would create 10 open House seats in the following cities: St. Paul; Coon Rapids; Plymouth; Burnsville/Lakeville; Blaine; Prior Lake; St. Michael/Otsego; Becker/Clear Lake/Zimmerman; Rochester; and Cross Lake/Wadena.
The plan would create three open Senate seats in Minneapolis, Bloomington and Northfield/Faribault.
A Senate plan has not yet been released. They would have to be reconciled and submitted to Gov. Mark Dayton for his approval.
In March, lawmakers received the full results of Minnesota’s 2010 Census figures. The state added 350,000 people over the past decade, growing to 3.3 million people. That 7.8 percent increase was slightly below the national average, but just fast enough to keep us from losing a congressional seat to another state, according to state Demographer Tom Gillaspy.
The fastest-growing population areas — a line spreading from St. Cloud down the western and southern Twin Cities exurbs and suburbs to Rochester — will undoubtedly see their political clout grow in the next decade, while stagnant or declining populations in the northwest, southwest and northeast corners of the state and the urban core of Minneapolis and St. Paul have the most to lose.
Now that the numbers are in, lawmakers are required to submit and Gov. Mark Dayton is required to approve a final redistricting map by February 25, 2012. If they fail to come up with a proposal that is acceptable to both sides by that date, a back-up panel of experts appointed by Minnesota’s Supreme Court justices could draw the lines, as they did in 2002.
And this time, lawmakers have a full month less than they did in 2002. That’s because the state moved its primary up from September to August in 2010. The move has Gillaspy nervous about the Legislature’s chances for coming up with a plan in time.
“Our timing is now shorter than it has been and that has us quite concerned,” he told House Redistricting Committee members back in January.
Dayton communicated his concern about the Legislature’s lack of progress in a letter dated April 25 to Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, chairwoman of the House Redistricting Committee. In it, he noted that, by the same time in 2002, the House had already adopted redistricting principles and the Senate did so on May 1.
He also outlined what he considered essential principles that needed to be part of any plan, including:
● Achieving the smallest population deviation possible between districts.
● Providing fair representation for racial and language minorities.
● Minimizing the division of counties, cities and townships between districts.
● Preserving “communities of interest” such as the Iron Range, Red River Valley, etc.
● Not being drawn to protect or defeat an incumbent.
And he insisted that any final maps be posted on the Web for public viewing prior to a vote.
Inclusive or not?
When her bill came up for a vote on the House floor last week, Anderson noted that the plan gave Dayton “four out of five,” including everything except language concerning incumbency.
She also defended the bill against charges from Hortman and other DFLers that the process hadn’t been inclusive.
“We had 14 hearings spanning four months to get the input from the citizens of the state of Minnesota on the redistricting process,” she said. “We have reached out to a multitude of different communities of interest.”
But she and Republican colleagues defeated DFL amendments that would have required three public hearings and five days of public review before passage of a final redistricting plan.
Rep. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, took Anderson to task for failing to directly engage communities of color.
“Redistricting is intended to design districts with fairness and that fairness as part of the process requires us to engage, to reach out to communities and to meet constituents where they are,” he said.
DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen objected to the lack of time for discussion of the Republican plan, which was released at 6:30 p.m. on May 2 and scheduled for a committee vote at 6:30 p.m. the following day.
Some believe the Legislature should stay out of redistricting altogether.
A partnership of nonprofits including the League of Women Voters Minnesota, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Common Cause Minnesota and TakeAction Minnesota formed an alliance called Draw the Line Minnesota. The group advocates for a nonpartisan, independent redistricting process that “allows voters to choose their politicians, not the other way around.”
A bill from Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, would take the process out of politicians’ hands and put a commission composed of five retired judges in charge. But HF 406 has not received a hearing in the House.
Even without passing Simon’s bill, it’s possible something like what he envisions will end up happening anyway. In 2001, the Supreme Court appointed a five-person panel to come up with a redistricting plan on its own, just in case the GOP-controlled House, DFL-controlled Senate and Independence Party Gov. Jesse Ventura couldn’t agree on one by their deadline.
The group held hearings around the state to take testimony and came up with its own plan. When the legislative process failed, the Supreme Court put that plan into place and Minnesota has been using it for the past decade.
Matt Gehring, House Research Legislative Analyst, told House Redistricting Committee members earlier this year that the same thing would happen if they couldn’t work together.
“If the Legislature hasn’t agreed on a plan and the Governor hasn’t signed on a plan, it’s likely the court will issue a new set of boundaries based on whatever criteria they decide to use,” he said.
CORRECTION: In 2001, the Supreme Court appointed a five-person panel to come up with a redistricting plan on its own, just in case the GOP-controlled House, DFL-controlled Senate and Independence Party Gov. Jesse Ventura couldn’t agree on one by their deadline.