Minnesota has a new set of voting maps for 2022. Here's how they took shape
A look at the changes in the new voting maps and how judges say they drew them.
ST. PAUL — The release Tuesday, Feb. 15, of Minnesota's new congressional and legislative maps spurred some candidates to announce their bids for office, while others turned to introspection about whether they'd move or retire from their seats.
Lawmakers blew through a legislative deadline (again) making a Minnesota court panel's input necessary to keep state elections on track in the coming months and into the next decade.
Here's a look at what the judicial panel said informed its decisions around the new maps and what the changes could mean for Minnesota voters.
How did they decide how to draw the districts?
The five-judge panel in its orders Tuesday said there were a few criteria that helped it redraw the state's voting maps. They tried to:
- Remain close to a target population to keep districts even
- Comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as well as the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution
- Respect the lands of federally recognized American Indian tribes
- Respect political subdivisions
- Preserve communities of interest (those who share social, cultural, ethnic, occupational or other interests)
- Shape districts without the intent of helping or hurting any candidate or political party
- Keep the districts reasonably compact
For Congressional districts, the judges aimed to split the state into eight districts with close to 713,312 voters in each. And that meant adjusting each district to add or subtract people depending on how much the district's population changed over the last decade.
The five districts closest to the Twin Cities metro area (Congressional Districts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6) saw their populations increase at a greater rate than the statewide average in the last 10 years, which meant they needed to shrink (in population and geography) to meet that new target, the panel said.
Meanwhile, Congressional Districts 1, 7 and 8, needed to grow in geography and people to meet the target.
That means the more urban districts contracted, geographically, to scale down in population size. And rural districts expanded into surrounding areas to grow their populations.
The judges also noted that they took into consideration the representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Color around the state. Those communities fueled Minnesota's population growth over the last decade.
Why did the court have to draw the maps?
Under the Minnesota Constitution, the state Legislature is charged with redrawing the congressional and legislative maps every decade. But political division has prevented that from happening over several decades.
And that means the court has had to intervene to redraw the maps to ensure they represent the state's changing demographics. Parties sued following the completion of the 2020 U.S. Census, alleging the state's maps published in 2012 were "unconstitutionally malapportioned," kick-starting the work of the Minnesota Judicial Branch Special Redistricting Panel in 2021.
The panel took testimony around the state, assessed a variety of competing proposals for the new maps and ultimately shared the new maps on Tuesday.
Where did the biggest shifts happen (and why)?
Voters in northern and central Minnesota can expect to see the biggest changes following the changes to the congressional maps.
The judicial panel expanded the state's 8th Congressional District to the west, as well as south down to Washington County. The district is now set to encompass all populated northern Minnesota tribal lands in one congressional district.
Judges said the district will represent mining, timber, outdoor and tourism industries, while its neighbor to the west, the 7th Congressional District, would continue to represent agriculture and the Red River Valley.
The 7th Congressional District also needed to pick up its population to meet the panel's target, so the judges added part of Cottonwood County, more of Stearns County, pieces of Brown and Hubbard counties, as well as Morrison and Wadena counties to the vast western section of the state.
In southern Minnesota, the 1st Congressional District grew to pick up Goodhue and Wabasha counties from the 2nd Congressional District.
The panel, in an order explaining the changes, noted that while it used the guiding principles to attempt neutrality in redrawing the districts, its approach "does not leave any congressional district unchanged. Nor does it mean that all Minnesotans will view the changes as insubstantial."
What are people saying about the maps?
FiveThirtyEight, a political analysis site, said the new maps likely won't upset the political balance in Minnesota, at least in terms of its congressional representation.
The site reported that the new districts would likely maintain three Democratic-leaning seats, one highly competitive seat and four Republican-leaning seats.
And in the district that hosted the closest contest in 2020, representatives and candidates vying to take them out announced their bids for office, now that they could safely say they lived in the districts they hoped to represent.
U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, a Democrat representing the state's 2nd Congressional District announced that she would seek reelection on Tuesday. And Republican challenger Tyler Kistner said he would again challenge Craig in the newly realigned district.
Others waited to say whether they would run again or retire following the release of the maps. The revised maps also set up new matches between lawmakers already serving in the Minnesota Legislature, in some cases with two people representing the same political party.