The Potluck

Political groups defend their redistricting proposals in oral arguments

By: - January 4, 2022 3:23 pm

The Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul as the sun sets on Election Day, November 3, 2020. Photo by Tony Webster.

A panel of five judges appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday for four different congressional district map proposals ahead of a Feb. 15 deadline to redraw the state’s election borders. 

The delay of Census 2020 figures has created a time crunch for the redrawn legislative maps. In recent months, lawmakers, citizen groups and others have pitched their plans.

Despite the Legislature’s constitutional duty to draw maps, Minnesota courts have had to step in and draw the maps in all of the last five decades because of political gridlock. 

If lawmakers do not finalize maps by then, the courts will publish theirs.  

The judges outlined a series of principles they said the maps must adhere to, including seeking to create districts of equal population, and not diluting the vote of residents based on race or ethnicity. Maps must also not divide tribal nations more than is necessary.  

“You will not hear me describe the perfect district,” said David J. Zoll, the attorney representing the DFL Party along with lead plaintiff Frank Sachs. “The best plan is the one that embraces and balances all of the principles adapted by this panel that respond to the public testimony and creates fair maps to how Minnesota has changed in the last 10 years.”

Other plaintiffs are representing GOP interests, the interests of communities of color and a lawyer involved in past redistricting efforts. 

The GOP’s plan, represented by lead plaintiff Paul Anderson, argues for the voting power of rural and exurban communities. Merging such communities into congressional districts that also include Twin Cities suburbs would dilute the voting power of rural voters, the plaintiffs argue.

“Rural Minnesota has very different interests,” said attorney Elizabeth Brama, advocating for the Anderson plan.

Oral arguments dived into the details of the maps, with attorneys for the various plaintiffs dissecting why they believe the others’ maps were inferior.

The House DFL recently released its newly redrawn maps and has urged the GOP-led Senate to publish maps so they can hash out differences. 

“It’s my expectation that the House and Senate will collaborate in the legislative process to draw up-to-date and fair maps for the people of Minnesota,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said in a statement. “The House stands ready to complete this work, and we await action from the Senate.” 

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez was a senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.