Minnesota faces tight timeline for legislative redistricting

·3 min read

Every 10 years about now, the Minnesota Legislature usually would have drawn new political maps, fought over their differences and possibly even shipped them off to the governor to either sign or veto.

This cycle, that work is just beginning.

That's because critical data from the U.S. Census Bureau was delayed from April to August this year, pushing the redistricting timeline back and condensing the complex process of gathering input and reshaping legislative and congressional districts for the next decade to come.

"In some ways it's shifted," said Rep. Ginny Klevorn, DFL-Plymouth, vice chair of the House Redistricting Committee. "We have time to do the work and we have time to listen to the community and have a fair and transparent process, it's just much later than usual."

The House has spent late summer and early fall holding hearings and gathering input from every congressional district in the state. Senate Redistricting Committee members have traveled for community hearings.

But the delay has complicated things for the courts, which have become the de facto map makers in Minnesota the last several decades after divided government failed to reach an agreement and pass their own maps into law.

The judicial branch isn't exactly sitting back and waiting for the Legislature this time. The courts have already appointed a panel of five judges, who are scheduling hearings of their own. The timeline is tight: State law requires completed maps by Feb. 15, with endorsing conventions and candidate filing deadlines coming soon after.

"The courts don't operate in a vacuum," said Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, the Republican lead on the House Redistricting Committee. "They have their eyes and ears open and they pay attention to what others are doing."

Torkelson was around in 2012 during the last round of redistricting and saw the Republican legislative maps vetoed by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton at the time. He's not certain how things will come together this time, but he's "optimistic" that the final result will be good for Minnesota no matter what.

"I think Minnesota in general has ended up with a pretty good product. They've looked pretty reasonable compared to other states," he said.

Klevorn is new to the process, but she's been encouraged by what she's seen so far in the House. The public has until the end of September to submit their comments to the House Redistricting Committee, which will then work to produce a set of principles for drawing the maps. A set of congressional and legislative maps will follow.

"This is work that the Legislature can and should do. It's our constitutional duty, but it does take political will," she said. She thinks divided government could potentially break their long streak of not agreeing to maps. "I believe that if we listen to the people of Minnesota and we stay focused on fair maps, we can do this."

Lawmakers will convene the 2022 legislative session on Jan. 31.

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