Selecting Commission Members

When we speak about our redistricting proposal to members of the general public, one set of questions always comes up. Who selects the commission? How can we eliminate partisanship? What makes a citizens’ commission better than what we do now?

Redistricting is left up to the states and it’s no surprise that states have developed a number of methods to carry out the responsibility. Some processes are political (governors or legislators drawing maps or appointing advisory panels subject to the legislature). Some states hand the work over to non-partisan staff (the state demographer or an impartial administrative agency). More recently, states have established independent commissions made up of citizens selected in a manner to reduce partisanship and diversify the representation.

None of these processes is perfect. Any potential member can have some partisan leanings or ideas. To reduce the chance of bias or partisan dysfunction, an appointment process that strives for a balanced makeup of the commission is key.

A Fair and Open Selection Process

The new version of HF 1605 will describe the selection process for the citizen commission. The process described in the prior bill, structured as an advisory committee, also included appointment of retired judges. The new bill calls for a smaller panel and regards retired judges as applicants on an equal footing with other citizens.

Further discussion, revisions, and amendments may result in other changes to the commission and selection process, so consider the diagram and description as an illustration of the overall concept.

Who selects the commission?

The Office of the Secretary of State is primarily responsible for administering the appointment process and ensuring its fairness.

  • Opportunities to apply will be widely announced statewide, with outreach to community leaders to encourage applicants that reflect the diversity of our state.
  • Applicants must be eligible to vote in Minnesota.
  • Applicants will be asked to disclose any political and party affiliations.
  • Certain individuals with close connections to politics and high-ranking public officials are not eligible.

How can you eliminate partisanship? The middle three steps in the diagram depict distinct measures to reduce the influence of potentially partisan members.

Balancing the applicant pool:

  • Eligible applicants will be sorted into pools consisting of 40 DFLers and 40 Republicans.
  • A third pool will consist of 40 voters affiliated with neither major party, including declared independents and voters affiliated with small parties.
  • This total of 120 will, “to the extent practical, reflect the gender, socioeconomic, age, racial, language, ethnic, and geographic diversity of the state.”

Striking the most partisan applicants:

  • The majority and minority leaders of the state house and senate narrow the list of finalists.
  • Using a process similar to selecting jury members from a juror pool, leaders will alternatively strike applicants until the total is reduced to 36 in three equal groups.
  • This retains a role for the legislature and relies on their political judgment as to the potential partisanship of applicants.

Random final selection:

  • The new pool of 36 is returned to the Secretary of State’s office, where appointees are selected by lot.
  • Three will be affiliated with the majority political party; three will be affiliated with the minority political party; and three will be affiliated with neither of those parties.

What makes a citizens’ commission better?

A vetted, multi-party citizens’ commission certainly reduces the risk of partisan influence, but that alone is no guarantee of fair and representative district maps. The commission must also be able to operate free of outside political pressure and make decisions in an open and transparent process, guided by redistricting principles that put the interests of district residents ahead of the interests of parties and incumbents.

Principles for Map Making
Contact Us / Get Involved
Background and Summary of the Redistricting Bill