Redistricting proposals put political boundaries up for grabs

State Senators Myron Orfield (DFL-Minneapolis) and Jane Ranum (DFL-Minneapolis) could find themselves running against each other this fall. Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis) might need to court Edina residents to keep her seat. Congressman Martin Sabo (DFL-Minneapolis) could run against Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-North St. Paul) to represent a new congressional district that includes Minneapolis and St. Paul.

These are some of the scenarios created in the four state-redistricting plans. Every ten years, political districts are redrawn to more accurately reflect population data from the census. The most recent census was taken in 2000.

At the very least, Minneapolis will lose some representation at the state level because of burgeoning population in the suburbs relative to Minneapolis.

The state Legislature couldn’t find a compromise among the plans — two DFL plans, one Republican plan and Gov. Ventura’s plan — so the four plans serve as a starting point for a special five-judge redistricting panel. The panel, appointed by the State Supreme Court, will decide on redrawn Congressional and state legislative districts by March 19.

A series of public hearings were scheduled to solicit comments on redistricting. A hearing was held in St. Paul on Feb. 6.

State senator and representative elections will be held this fall based on the new boundaries.

City redistricting Once the congressional and state political boundaries are drawn, the City

of Minneapolis Redistricting Commission will look at city ward and park district boundaries. April 30 is the deadline for city boundaries to be completed. Following work on city political boundaries, the county draws its district boundaries by May 28.

The population of a city ward must remain within plus or minus 5 percent of a population quota created by dividing the city’s population by 13 (the number of wards.) In Southwest Minneapolis, the 11th Ward (which includes Tangletown, Windom and part of EHFNA and Lynnhurst) needs to grow in size. The 8th Ward (which includes a narrow strip of Lyndale and Kingfield between Nicollet Avenue and Interstate 35W) needs to shrink.

Some possible points to watch at the city level:

  • Some interest exists in creating a single ward for downtown. But don’t expect this to be an easy sell — there’s plenty of opposition, including City Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward), who represents a portion of downtown.

     

     

  • Some politicians have suggested that ward boundaries more closely follow neighborhood boundaries. There could be interest in changing some of the boundaries where a ward dips only a small bit into a neighborhood. The Standish Neighborhood, for example, has four different councilmembers representing portions of the neighborhood, including a one-block section in the 11th Ward.

     

    Legislative change to elections Even though the political boundaries will change, the city charter doesn’t call for elections until 2005, with officials taking office in 2006. One state lawmaker is spearheading a bill that would change that, forcing elections after redistricting similar to what happens at the state level.

    Downtown-area state Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) has introduced a bill that will force Minneapolis to conduct new City Council elections in Fall 2003, rather than 2005 as scheduled. Kahn’s bill is co-sponsored by fellow Minneapolis DFL Reps. Greg Gray and Len Biernat.

    Kahn said using the current districts — drawn after the 1990 census — into 2006 "makes a mockery out of the timely use of census data to implement a one-person, one-vote philosophy."

    At the state level, four-year Senate terms are cut to two years in election years ending in ’00, so everyone can run in re-drawn

    districts for the ’02 elections.

    Some political observers have suggested that even if Kahn’s bill doesn’t pass, the city may face a lawsuit from voters in minority groups or areas that have increased population since 1990. These potential plaintiffs would argue that using the 1990-era districts denies them an increased chance at council and park board representation.