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With DFL and GOP proposals filed, stage set for Minnesota redistricting debate

Minnesota's legislative session begins Jan. 31, and with a Feb. 15 deadline looming and few signs of compromise, it's likely a judicial panel will make the final call on the state's new maps for congressional and legislative districts.

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Minnesota state capitol
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ST. PAUL — Both Democrats and Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature have released redistricting proposals as the Feb. 15 deadline to approve the state’s new legislative and Congressional districts approaches.

But with neither party signaling willingness to compromise on new representative boundaries, it appears that a judicially appointed panel will once again step in to redraw the state’s eight congressional districts, 67 Senate districts and 134 House districts. The judicial panel had its final input session earlier in January and has not yet released its maps.

A five-judge panel appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court last summer is creating maps of new legislative and congressional districts that will serve as the state’s new map if the parties can’t reach an agreement. The legislative session begins Jan. 31.

The state’s new maps have been decided by a judicial panel for the past half-century, though this year the partisan and judicial mapmakers have been working on a shorter timeline. Typically, lawmakers get new population data by January or February the year after the Census. The data from the most recent Census didn’t come until August, meaning a much tighter turnaround for the committees and the panel.

Much as GOP lawmakers protested a lack of input on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-controlled House redistricting process, DFL lawmakers complained of a lack of access to the GOP-controlled Senate redistricting process. Sen. Jason Isaacson, DFL-Shoreview, said the Senate Redistricting Committee failed to get input from a “broad swath” of Minnesotans.

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At a November House Redistricting Committee hearing, Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, the top Republican on the committee, had similar complaints. "Neither of these maps are a step in the right direction; these are highly partisan," he said of the DFL Congressional and legislative redistricting proposals.

GOP Congressional Districts

Minnesota Senate Republicans released their maps on Jan. 7.

The Republican proposal for new Congressional districts expands the boundaries of the 2nd District, an area south of the Twin Cities represented by Democrat Angie Craig, to include conservative rural counties. It also cuts out parts of the suburbs immediately to the south of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Suburbs typically swing between parties more than rural and urban districts, though in recent years have started to favor Democrats.

The map also expands the western half of the 1st District several counties north into the current 7th District that covers much of the western half of the state. The move expands the amount of conservative rural territory in the 1st District while preserving the already mostly rural 7th District.

DFL Congressional Districts

Among the most immediately noticeable changes in the DFL’s proposed Congressional districts map is Minnesota's 8th District, which covers the northeastern part of the state and includes Duluth, Brainerd and the Iron Range. Under the proposed map, the district would span the entire northern third of the state and include Bemidji, East Grand Forks, and most of Minnesota's Indian Reservations. Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican, currently represents the 8th District.

The proposal would remove the northern region of the state's western 7th District, formerly home to longtime Democratic Congressman Collin Peterson and now represented by Republican Michelle Fischbach.

Other notable changes include:

Shifting Minnesota's 1st District east and north, eliminating far southwestern rural counties. Republican Jim Hagedorn is the district's representative.

The 2nd District, represented by Craig, would shed its southern rural counties and absorb part of suburban St. Paul's Washington County.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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