Redistricting Reform Resurfaces in the Minnesota Legislature
March 9, 2017—The Minnesota Legislature is currently holding hearings on proposals that could change the process of redistricting. Congressional and legislative district lines are redrawn every 10 years following completion of the United States Census. The federal government stipulates that districts must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity.
Redistricting is a fiercely contested issue, primarily due to gerrymandering, the practice of drawing district lines to favor one political party, individual, or constituency over another.
In Minnesota, it's the Legislature's job to draw those district lines. But over the last five decades, the Minnesota Supreme Court was forced to appoint a panel to draw the final congressional district lines because the two parties couldn't agree on new maps.
One of the bills under consideration now (HF 246) proposes to set up an independent redistricting commission made up of retired appellate and district court judges, which supporters say would eliminate the heavily partisan influence on the process and would produce more fair and competitive districts.
The bill is based on a proposal developed in 2008 by a broad-based coalition led by former Vice President Walter Mondale and former Governor Arne Carlson. The Center for the Study of Politics and Governance's Minnesota Redistricting Project was instrumental in the development of the proposal, by providing nonpartisan information and analysis to the coalition on Minnesotan elections, the competitiveness of legislative races, and the consequences of weak competition.
The project also provided public education and engagement that helped place redistricting reform on the agendas of the public and policy makers.
In May 2009, legislation based on the Mondale/Carlson proposal passed the Minnesota Senate, but did not advance in the Minnesota House.