Citizens and City representatives have until Friday October 21, 2011 to influence a decision that will affect their communities for years to come. The Judicial Panel on Redistricting is still accepting written comments until that time. It’s time to step up and make sure your community’s interests are heard.
City Input Is Important. The redistricting map will have a significant impact on how greater Minnesota and your individual city is represented at the legislature. For example, the initial legislative map (found here) drawn by the legislature and vetoed by the Governor split a number of our cities including Mankato, Staples, and Lake City into two house districts, and in one case two Senate Districts. Even though some city splits are inevitable, it makes sense for a city to provide input on where the lines should be drawn.
It is also important that if a city shares a district with other cities, that those communities have similar interests. For example, in the original proposal, Grand Rapids was placed in a senate district that extends all the way to Princeton. Morris, Ortonville, and Elbow Lake were placed in a Senate District that extends all the way to Sauk Rapids and Melrose. These cities could be represented by someone who has almost no connection to their area.
Similarly, the proposed congressional maps split the state in to districts that ran from western boundary to the eastern boundary. This change could further diminish greater Minnesota’s representation in Congress.
Keep in mind that even if the initial maps were favorable to your city, they are not the final maps. Thus, if the initially proposed districts made sense for your area, you may want to provide testimony to that effect as well.
Preparing Your Input. When you prepare your statement, looking at the initial maps here http://bit.ly/j8IgSA (legislative) and here http://bit.ly/kuhMRs (congressional) is a good starting point. Start with the interactive map (bottom right hand corner of the page) to find out which proposed district your city would be located in and then go back to the pull down maps to examine the individual districts.
Keep in mind the final maps may look very different. Consider some of the following when preparing your testimony:
- If your city is likely to be split, either because it is large or because it might be necessary to achieve the correct size for a district, you may want to testify that you prefer your city not be split and explain why. If it is inevitable that a split will occur, you may want to comment on the most appropriate place for that to occur.
- If your city has non-contiguous or barely contiguous parcel due to annexation, you may want to recommend that the parcels be included in the same legislative district and explain what that would look like.
- If there are nearby cities/communities that have more common interests with yours, you may you may want to point that out. For example, Grand Rapids may want to point out that it has more in common with other communities in Northern Minnesota than in the exurban metropolitan area.
- Any number of our cities may want to comment that it would be beneficial that communities in Greater Minnesota be grouped together, whether in congressional districts or legislative districts, rather than being drawn into districts with suburban/exurban cities. It would also be helpful to comment that generally it is helpful to group population centers together into one district.
Your Comments Do Make A Difference. These hearings are before a panel of five judges who will take your comments into consideration. For example, in 2002, the panel mentioned testimony by Detroit Lakes Mayor Larry Buboltz and Breckenridge Mayor Cliff Barth when it issued its final plan. Redistricting is not simply plugging numbers into a computer program. The panel wants to know what cities and towns it makes sense to group together and where lines should be drawn if a city must be split.
Details on providing comments
You can submit written comments via United States mail or e-mail in the following manner:
- Deliver one original and one copy of your written statement to a public hearing
- OR e-mail the statement to StateRedistrictingPanel@courts.state.mn.us
- OR send one original and one copy of the statement via U.S. Mail to:
Minnesota Special Redistricting Panel
c/o Bridget Gernander, Clerk of Appellate Courts
305 Minnesota Judicial Center
25 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
More details on the hearing location and submitting comments can be found here: http://www.mncourts.gov/?page=4478