ST. PAUL — If you live in Angie Craig’s south suburban congressional district or in Betty McCollum’s east metro district, there’s a chance that you will have to pick a different U.S. House candidate next year.
That’s also true if you live in one of three other Twin Cities-area congressional districts.
All five of those districts made significant population gains in the 2020 census, and they must shed residents before the 2022 election.
Meanwhile, Minnesota’s three predominantly rural congressional districts — in the northern, southern and western parts of the state — all gained relatively little population over the past decade and will have to grow larger.
The U.S. Constitution requires the redrawing of legislative and congressional political boundaries once every 10 years to reflect population changes after a new census. The new lines are supposed to ensure that every part of the state has equal representation.
But more than that, “battles over redistricting are about power — power for the rural, urban or suburban areas, for particular parties or specific interests… (B)ecause it is about power, the process is highly partisan and contentious as parties seek to use the process to favor their interests,” David Schultz, a Hamline University political science professor and University of Minnesota Law School professor, wrote in a Minnesota Lawyer magazine article this year.
The new district lines will dictate the political fates of legislative and congressional candidates and decide who controls the U.S. House and the Minnesota Legislature, perhaps for the next decade.
State lawmakers are charged with the job of redrawing the boundaries. Legislative committees have started holding public hearings, but given the fact that legislators and the governor haven’t been able to agree on new maps for the past half century and that the current Legislature is split between Democrats who control the House and Republicans running the Senate, the chances of passing a bipartisan agreement are “pretty slim,” said state Rep. Paul Torkelson of Hanska, the lead Republican on the House Redistricting Committee. So the state courts are likely to once again be called on to draw the new lines.
Nonetheless, Torkelson said, legislative hearings give the public a chance to air their views on redistricting principles, communities of interest and district lines, and that information will be available to the court. “Input from the public and from legislators is invaluable,” he said.
Judges are already laying the groundwork for drawing new lines. A handful of plaintiffs, headed by longtime legislative redistricting expert Peter Wattson and former Ramsey County elections supervisor Joe Mansky, kicked off the process last winter by filing a lawsuit arguing that the state’s current legislative and congressional districts are unconstitutional because they no longer have equal populations. More suits were filed later.
In June, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea appointed a five-judge panel to hear redistricting cases and draw new maps if the Legislature fails to complete the job by Feb. 15. That panel is taking preliminary steps to assume that responsibility.
Redrawing the political map
To rebalance Minnesota’s congressional districts, each one would have to include 713,311 or 713,312 residents, according to the Minnesota State Demographic Center.
Here is where the population shifts will have to occur:
- Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips’ 3rd Congressional District, which includes suburbs to the north, west and south of Minneapolis, now has the largest population in the state — 737,898 residents — so it would have to shed nearly 25,000 of them to meet the required “one person, one vote” standard.
- Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s 5th District, covering Minneapolis plus small chunks of Anoka and Ramsey counties, is another fast-growing parcel. It has 736,036 residents or almost 23,000 more than it needs.
- Republican Rep. Tom Emmer’s 6th District — including most or all of Anoka, Benton, Carver, Sherburne, Stearns, Washington and Wright counties — has 733,957 residents or nearly 21,000 to spare.
- DFLer Craig’s CD2 has 731,958 inhabitants or nearly 19,000 more than the ideal size.
- Democrat McCollum’s CD4, taking in nearly all of Ramsey County and much of Washington County, is 13,000-plus residents over the target population with 726,476 constituents.
- Republican Michelle Fischbach’s CD7, by far the state’s largest sprawling over nearly all of western Minnesota, also has the smallest population, 673,514. It needs nearly 40,000 more residents to meet the 2022 standard.
- GOP Rep. Pete Stauber’s CD8 covers northeastern Minnesota and is home to 675,929 residents — some 37,000 fewer than it will need next year.
- Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s CD1 extends across southern Minnesota from Wisconsin to South Dakota. It has a population of 690,726 or nearly 23,000 fewer than the target.
Minnesota's makeup is changing
Not only is the state’s population growing, but it is becoming more diverse. Black, Indigenous people and other people of color (BIPOC) now make up nearly 24% of the state’s population, up from 17 percent 10 years ago, according to the latest numbers from the 2020 U.S. Census.
State demographer Susan Bower said that data would be used to ensure that Minnesota’s new political districts are drawn fairly.
In July, three voting rights groups — Common Cause Minnesota, OneMN.org and Voices for Racial Justice — filed a lawsuit aimed at making sure that Minnesotans of color are represented in the state’s redistricting process.
“Unfair redistricting means some in our community have a voice while others are silenced,” Common Cause state executive director Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera said in announcing the lawsuit. “Every Minnesotan should be fairly represented in new district maps, regardless of their race, ethnicity, ZIP code, income or political affiliation.”
She warned that racial gerrymandering — changing a voting district to help one political group or hurt their opponents — could prevent many Minnesotans from being fairly represented in the new maps.
This is the first Minnesota lawsuit to press the issue of race in redistricting, Schultz said.
Under the current congressional districts, only one of the eight Minnesotans in the U.S. House is a person of color: Democrat Omar, a Somali-American from Minneapolis.
To win more seats, BIPOC candidates would need to appeal to large numbers of white voters because they make up big majorities — 60 to 89% — in every district.
Omar’s 5th District has the largest fraction of residents of color, nearly 40%.
The 4th District, represented by McCollum for 20 years, has the second-largest bloc of BIPOC voters, 38%.
Some 28% of the 3rd District residents are people of color, and BIPOC residents make up 24% of the people in the 2nd District.
Most Minnesotans of color reside in and around the Twin Cities, but not all. Some rural districts experienced big increases in the percentage of BIPOC residents living there in the past decade.
The exurban and rural 6th District saw the biggest percentage growth of residents of color. They now make up 15% of the population there.
People of color make up 18% of 1st District residents, 14% in the 7th District and 11% in CD8.
In drawing the 2012 congressional maps, the court made as few changes as possible to avoid voter confusion. That favored incumbents.
To address racial disparities in the 2022 election, Schultz said, the Legislature or the court would have to do more than make minimal changes to the current lines.