Democracy activists nationwide have successfully pushed for the creation of independent citizen redistricting commissions through ballot initiatives and legislation. Minnesota is not a ballot initiative state and must move citizens independent redistricting commission reforms through legislation.
Common Cause MN is leading the effort to create a people-centered independent redistricting process ensuring Minnesotans finally get district voting maps that fairly and squarely put us first.
Redistricting is the process of drawing electoral district boundaries that all states participate in after the completion of each decennial census, to account for population shifts. Rules for how this happens and who does it varies from state to state. In Minnesota, our state constitution bestows that power to the legislative body who is responsible for this process.
For six decades our legislature has failed to do its job and move bipartisan maps that fairly put us ahead of self and partisan interests. Because of this, the Court has had to step in and take over the process. The Court’s role is not to represent the interest of constituents who live, work and economically engage within districts. The Court’s limited role ensuring drawn maps don’t violate any federal or state laws, has resulted in “least change” status quo maps that don’t reflect all Minnesotans. They have openly chastised the MN legislature for not fulfilling its job of drawing maps that are successfully passed into law.
In Minnesota, the legislature is responsible for drawing the lines. This creates a huge conflict of interest because they’re drawing lines for their own districts. We’ve seen what’s happened in other states when one party is in power and gerrymanders drawing lines to protect or increase their power. We’ve even seen parties working together for a bipartisan gerrymander where incumbents on both sides of the political aisle negotiate to protect their seats – or like in Minnesota, they will strike deals accommodating incumbents preference for living at their lake homes. These types of deals are struck behind closed doors with little, if any, transparency or public knowledge by impacted voters in those districts.
What are Independent Redistricting Commissions?
Independent Redistricting Commissions (IRC) removes the power of drawing our district voting maps from the self-interest of politicians ensuring it is our interests, not theirs, that is centered in the process of drawing our voting district maps.
The key component of these independent citizens commissions is that political insiders are prohibited from participation, eliminating the clear conflict of interest that exists when elected officials or those close to them draw districts.
- In every state that currently has a commission, except Utah, its commissioners – and not legislators – have the final say in approving districts.
- In every state that has a commission, except Alaska and Utah, commissions have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.
- Seven states have independent commissions that are designed for partisan balance and that give commissioners the ultimate authority to approve districts. These include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, and Washington.
What are Advisory Redistricting Commissions?
A key difference between the IRC and an Advisory Redistricting Commission is that an IRC draws final maps and an advisory commission draws maps that legislators can either disregard or directly influence. In Minnesota, an Advisory Redistricting Commission can still provide guardrails that correct for the problem with maps drawn under a “least change” approach taken by the Courts in their very limited role. An Advisory Redistricting Commission would provide the Court with a set of neutral maps drawn by non-politically interested citizens they would review and compare with those drawn by self-interested legislators.
For the past six decades the MN Legislature has been clear, it doesn’t want to set aside its own partisan interests to put constituents interest first. The best model to address the problem with a legislature that won’t move bipartisan maps putting Minnesotans ahead of self-interests and kicks the can down to the Court decade after decade in Minnesota is an Independent Redistricting Commission.