Court panel sets redistricting criteria

With MPR’s Rupa Shenoy…

The five-member panel charged with redrawing the state’s political boundaries issued an order today detailing the criteria they will use to draw those maps.

For the first time, the panel said the metropolitan area should be regarded as 11 counties, not seven. As a result more exurban counties could be tied into districts in suburban and urban areas.

That was an approach Republicans favored, said Elizabeth Brama who represents the Republican party on redistricting. She said it’s unclear what effect the change will have.

“I don’t think it’s a question of one party or the other benefiting,” Brama said. “I think it’s more a question of just fairly representing where the people in the state of Minnesota live and how they organize themselves.”

Brama said the council’s decision may reflect how people in ex-urban counties formerly considered rural may now see themselves as more urban.

DFL party chair Ken Martin wasn’t surprised by those changes.

“I think it’s pretty pro forma and certainly establishes a lot of the same principles that were in place ten years ago,” Martin said. “Again, without discussing this further with my team and being able to look at it more in detail, I can’t comment any more than that. But on the surface I think it’s fine. I don’t think it give any party an advantage over another.”

The court order also suggests that it will consider communities of interest to include “social, geographic, political, cultural, ethnic, economic or other interests.” Attorneys for the DFL Party were arguing that those communities of interest are critical to redrawing the lines.

The five-member panel is tasked with creating a set of maps for the state’s eight congressional districts and 201 legislative districts if Gov. Dayton and the GOP-controlled Legislature can’t agree on a map. Dayton vetoed a GOP plan earlier this year and he suggested it’s unlikely an agreement can be reached before the Feb. 21 deadline. The court will take over the process at that time.

You can read the full order here.

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