Civic Caucus Statement to the Governor and
Legislature on Redistricting
Looking toward the 2010 Census, the Minnesota Governor and Legislature should
reassign the responsibility for drawing boundaries of legislative and
To enhance the integrity of elections and to help restore public confidence in
government, lawmakers should protect themselves from the temptation to
manipulate redistricting for personal and partisan gain.
The Legislature in 2008 should enact a redistricting plan along the lines of
recommendations by a broadly-based bipartisan group of respected former office
holders, chaired by former Vice President Walter Mondale, Democrat, and former
Governor Arne Carlson, Republican. In the group are those most intimately
involved in redistricting over the last 30-40 years, including a retired
Republican Speaker of the House, a retired DFL Senate Majority Leader, and a
retired Chief Justice.
Minnesota legislators soon will try to redraw boundaries of congressional and
legislative districts. Redistricting is mandated every 10 years by the U.S.
Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court. After official 2010 population totals
are certified by the U.S. Census, states must redraw the boundaries of their
congressional and legislative districts, consistent with one-person-one-vote.
Legislatures in 12 states are uninvolved because their states' constitutions
assign someone else. In at least one other case a Legislature has farmed out
the job but retains the right to jump back in.
In Minnesota the Legislature (with the Governor having the power to approve or
veto) will divide the state's 3,000 precincts into 134 districts of
essentially equal population (for state representatives), 67 districts (for
state senators), and seven or eight congressional districts--depending on
whether the state gives up a seat because of population changes.
C. Problems with redistricting today
1. It's a conflict of interest for legislators--The Legislature has an
inherent conflict of interest in drawing its own district boundaries. The
process has the effect of allowing legislators to select their voters, while
the intent of a representative democracy is to allow the voters to select
2. It takes way too much time--Legislators will spend endless hours on the
issue. What seem to be trivial details to some will be major concerns to
others. The issue will take precedence over everything else--over balancing
the budget, over transportation, over education, over health care, and so
forth. Legislators will haggle over issues such as:
--which incumbents will be placed in the same district,
--how the party in power will solidify its position,
--whether legislators who voted the "right" way on certain other issues will
be favored with safe districts,
--whether those who voted the "wrong" way will find themselves in districts
they can't win,
--whether majority and minority leaders will enact a sweetheart deal that
preserves the status quo.
3. It can reduce influence of some voters--When districts heavily favor one
party or the other, some voters are, in effect, disenfranchised, whatever
their political persuasion. If voters find themselves in the majority in a
safe district, they risk being taken for granted, or ignored. And, of course,
voters of the minority party in a safe district know they have hardly any
influence and are even likely to forego voting.
4. It can favor candidates and voters on the more extreme ends of the
political spectrum-- Safe districts tend to favor candidates and their
supporters on the far left or far right, producing polarization and
diminishing the impact of the vast middle.
5. Lawmakers aren't likely to have last word anyway--There's a good chance
that legislators' investment of time and effort might be all for naught. Based
on experience over the last 40-50 years the Minnesota Supreme Court is likely
to end up imposing a decision, either because lawmakers can't reach agreement
or because lawmakers will have failed to satisfy constitutional mandates for
civil rights or one-person-one-vote.
6. The current process impedes efforts to bolster public confidence in
government --The public's confidence in government--certainly not at its
highest level today--isn't helped by the current process.
The all-consuming, gut-wrenching drama of the Legislature trying to redistrict
itself should be extensively modified.
1. The time is right--The 2008 Session of the Legislature is a particularly
opportune time to re-do the process of redistricting. Incumbent lawmakers are
still two election cycles (2008 and 2010) removed from implementation of any
new plan. The earliest a plan would take effect would be 2012. It might be
harder to modify redistricting next year or the following years, as 2012
2. A plan is ready--A credible plan is in front of them--prepared by some of
the most experienced political figures in the state, on both sides of the
aisle. An Advisory Commission on Redistricting at Humphrey Institute's Center
for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota has
produced the plan. The Advisory Commission is headed by Democrat Walter F.
Mondale, former Vice President, and Republican Arne Carlson, former Governor.
Its members include Kathleen Blatz, former Minnesota Chief Justice; Steve
Sviggum, former Republican Speaker of the House, and Roger Moe, former
Democrat Senate Majority Leader.
3. The plan is rooted in realism--The plan is no idealistic approach that
tries to wrestle redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature and hand it
over to some "non-partisan" body. The Advisory Commission knows full well that
whoever decides, political considerations will be present. The Advisory
Commission also is fully aware that no plan can be enacted without the
Thus, the Advisory Commission is recommending that the Legislature distance
itself, not remove itself, from redistricting. Lawmakers still could
over-politicize the process, but first they'd have to jump through a few
4. Only a law need be passed, not a constitutional amendment--Legislation
enacted by the Legislature and signed by the governor is all that is required.
If the Advisory Commission were recommending that the Legislature be entirely
removed from the process, the state constitution would need to be amended, a
step that is much more problematical, involving both legislative and voter
F. The Advisory Commission plan
Here is how the Advisory Commission plan would work:
1. New redistricting panel is established--A five-person decision-making panel
would be created. The Majority and Minority Leaders of the House and Senate
would each name a non-legislator. The four appointees in turn would name a
fifth member, also a non-legislator. The Mondale-Carlson commission recommends
the members be retired judges.
2. New panel prepares a redistricting proposal--The five-member panel would
prepare a redistricting proposal and submit it to the Legislature. The
Legislature would vote the proposal up or down, but could make no changes. If
approved, and if signed by the Governor, the proposal becomes law (always
subject, of course, to a Court challenge.)
3. Back-up proposals envisioned--If the first proposal doesn't become law, the
five-member panel would prepare a second proposal. If the second proposal were
rejected, the panel would prepare a third. If the third were rejected, the
Legislature itself could draw new boundaries itself.
G. The Civic Caucus recommendation
We recommend that the Legislature establish a redistricting panel along lines
of the proposal by the Advisory Commission at the Humphrey Institute.
The redistricting panel should draw boundaries for Minnesota's congressional
seats as well as for the Legislature. Congressional redistricting doesn't
receive as much attention, but that could change in the next round because
Minnesota might lose one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives because of
greater population growth elsewhere in the nation.
Many possibilities are present for who would serve on a redistricting panel.
Some critics feel that the Advisory Commission approach--retired judges
selected by legislative leaders--makes the panel resemble a conference
committee of the Legislature, and, therefore, would be too subject to partisan
politics. Another possibility would be to follow the Iowa approach, and
utilize non-partisan legislative staff as a panel.
Before drawing new boundaries the redistricting panel should conduct hearings
to receive public input and then adopt guidelines to be followed. Among
--Equality of population within reasonable limits
--Compactness, that is, making districts of similar shape
--Conformity to natural communities of interest.
H. The Civic Caucus process
Over the last two years the Civic Caucus has received input on the
redistricting issue from more than 30 thought leaders in Minnesota and
elsewhere. Their comments on redistricting, along with responses from our
electronic participants, may be found at www.civiccaucus.org. Background on
the Civic Caucus also is available at the website.
The Civic Caucus core group shared a preliminary draft of the statement with
800 electronic participants, inviting them to respond to specific questions
and offer additional comment. After reviewing responses, the report was
Following is a summary of responses:
1. On a scale of (0), least urgent, to (5), neutral, to (10), most urgent,
how important is it for the Legislature to assign responsibility for
redistricting to someone else? Respondents' average score: 9.5.
2. On a scale of (0), strongly opposed, to (5) neutral, to (10), strongly
favor, how do you feel about the redistricting proposal of the Mondale-Carlson
commission? Respondents' average score: 8.6.
3. On a scale of (0), strongly opposed, to (5), neutral, to (10), strongly
favor, should the Legislature retain final approval over a redistricting plan
prepared by an outside panel? Respondents' average score: 6.0.
4. On a scale of (0), strongly opposed, to (5), neutral, to (10), strongly
favor, should majority and minority legislative leaders appoint an outside
panel? Respondents' average score: 7.0.
5. Among suggestions for others who might make the panel appointments:
Minnesota Supreme Court; Legislative Auditor, and the Governor.
6. About two-thirds of the respondents felt a panel assigned to draw
boundaries should be composed of retired judges. Another one-fourth
recommended members of the general public.
7. About 10 percent of respondents felt a panel should be prohibited from
trying to make some districts more competitive. About 45 percent felt a panel
should be required to try to make some districts more competitive. About 45
percent felt the panel should be left free to do what it wants.
Support from Civic Caucus participants--The following Civic Caucus
participants agreed to lend their names in support of this statement:
Bob Brown, former state legislator
Blake S. Davis
Thomas G. Dosch
Kent E. Eklund
Ina R. Erickson
Carole M. Faricy
John R. Finnegan Sr.
Don Fraser, former member of Congress
Bill Frenzel, former member of Congress
Scott W. Halstead
Janet M. Hively
Ruby M. Hunt
Wayne B. Jennings
Charles P. Lutz
Malcolm W. McDonald
Tim R. McDonald
Roger Moe, former state legislator
Connie Morrison, former state legislator
Leonard J. Nadasdy
John C. Nowicki, LTC, USA, RET.
Sally Olsen,former state legislator
Shawn Lawrence Otto
George Pillsbury, former state legislator
Al Quie, former Governor
Ann Schluter & Larry W. Schluter
Clint and Carolyn Schroeder--Edina, MN
David Schultz, professor, Hamline University
Lyall A. Schwarzkopf, former state legislator
Tom H. Swain
Bob White (Robert J. White)