REGIONAL – Every ten years, after the US Census Bureau finishes collecting data for its decennial census, politicians across the country await the announcement of new population counts that trigger a redistribution. It involves the often controversial redistribution of the boundaries of congressional and state legislative constituencies, as well as those of smaller political subdivisions that use population to determine their local electoral boundaries.
The 2020 census sparked additional concern for Minnesotans the very real possibility that the state could lose one of its eight seats in the US House of Representatives to another, more developing state. quickly.
But Minnesota actually dodged that bullet, so the state’s Eighth District survived for at least ten years. With a tally of 5,709,752 as of April 1, Minnesota retained the House seat with the lowest margin since 1940. A total of 89 Minnesotans made the difference between retaining eight seats in Congress or losing to New York. .
Reshaping eight congressional districts is a much more favorable task for the Minnesota House Redistricting Committee, as the committee’s Republican, District 16B Representative Paul Torkelson of Hanska at Timberjay recently acknowledged.
“We’ve been a bit on the brink before, but we’ve never been so close to losing that eighth limb,” he said. “Thank goodness our enumerators were ambitious and went out and got the job done despite COVID to count every person they could find. “
However, finding consensus on a plan to fairly distribute Minnesota’s additional 400,000 residents to ensure equal representation in the eight members of Congress may well prove elusive – it certainly has in the past. The DFL and Republicans preliminary maps currently being considered by the Redistribution Committee have very different ideas, especially for the districts representing Greater Minnesota.
With 78 percent of the state’s population increase in the Twin Cities area, most districts in Greater Minnesota will need to expand to accommodate changing demographics.
Each of the eight congressional districts has a target population of 713,312 people, a number that can be reached in as little as 135 square miles in the Twin Cities, according to Redistricting Committee Chair Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown). But metropolitan growth means significant changes elsewhere, and there is no greater geographic shift than what the DFL is proposing for the country’s Northern Eighth District, a seat currently held by U.S. Republican Pete Stauber.
The DFL’s plan to meet the population goal would extend the existing eighth district west to the North Dakota border, increasing its size from 32,696 square miles to 44,418 square miles, Murphy said. It is roughly the same size as the state of Ohio.
“The eighth district has always been invested in the mining industry, the timber industry, the shipping industry, the paper industry and the tourism industry. It’s our economic connection to the world, ”Murphy said. “It goes all the way to North Dakota in the sense that there has always been farming in the Eighth District, and we still have big farms in the Northwest. Agricultural interests have a basis with shipping in some ways, so when we had to gain miles it made sense to go from border to border.
The Seventh District, which covers the western part of the state from the Canadian border in the south to a county on the southern border, would then move south to the border and extend east to at the edge of the metropolitan area of the Twin Cities. The first district, which covers the southern part of the state from border to border, would be changed to encompass the southeastern corner of the state, thereby gaining the additional population it would need by expanding to north to the Twin Cities.
“The old courts are stuck with the idea that hey, let’s change a little here and a little there, but not too much and keep people comfortable,” Murphy said. “We were daring. We have said that with changes and population shifts, we need to tackle these issues in a fair and honest manner. This is the first card, getting people to talk.
Torkelson was certainly ready to speak up and oppose his party’s plan to that of the DFL.
“In general, the districts that we have in Minnesota have been pretty well drawn and we don’t see the need for dramatic changes statewide,” Torkelson said. “Neighborhoods have changed, flipped from party to party, and to me that’s an indication that neighborhoods were pretty well designed in the first place.”
Indeed, the republican map only proposes small geographic changes for the 8th arrondissement to achieve the population objective. A farmer by profession, Torkelson challenged Murphy’s farming rationale to justify the DFL’s proposed eighth expansion.
“There’s definitely agriculture in the northeast, and it’s radically different from the farming scene in the (Red River) valley,” he said. “They don’t compare very well and they contrast quite a bit.”
One critical element that the DFL’s plan fails to consider, Torkelson said, is the traditional strength of the workforce, some of which is organized.
“I don’t really see that same nature happening in the entire northern part of the state,” he said. “I think it’s really overkill to do that. The valley has its own unique personality and landscape, and it must be in one congressional district.
These are the types of debates that have been going on since the constituency committee began meeting and receiving testimony, district by district, since August, and will most certainly continue until the start of the new legislative session in February. Murphy and Torkelson have been both cordial and complimentary of the committee’s work so far, but pointed out that glaring differences remain unresolved with Congress and state legislative redistribution proposals.
And these aren’t the only two cards being reviewed. A third alternative is in the hands of the committee, and four redistribution proposals have been filed directly with the courts, which will likely be called upon to decide the case as they have done in the history of past redistribution.
Maps and redistricting data for the seven redistricting proposals are available on the Geographic Information Services 2020 Redistricting webpage at https://www.gis.lcc.mn.gov/redist2020/plans.html.
The Timberjay will take an in-depth look at proposed changes to the Senate and State House districts in a future issue.