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Redistricting process progresses with state-wide hearings

It’s time to get serious about redistricting.

With the 2010 census in the books, the state has to reset the boundaries for its eight congressional districts, 67 state Senate districts and 134 state House districts by early next year, to prepare for the 2012 elections.

The Legislature got the first crack at the process, but the Republican plan that passed last session was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. There’s always hope they can come up with a compromise early next year when the next session starts, but let’s not count on it.

And the deadline, set by state law, is Feb. 21, 2012, so that counties can reset the precinct boundaries in time for the June filing time for August primaries.

That means it’s likely going to be up to the courts to decide the boundaries, as has been the case since the 1970s.

And they’re ready for the task. A five-judge panel, headed by Judge Wilhelmina Wright, has set up a series of eight meetings in early October to get public input on the matter.

The hearings, which all run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., are:

  • Oct. 4, Bloomington Civic Plaza, City Council Chambers,
  • Oct. 5, Minnesota Judicial Center, Courtroom 300, St. Paul
  • Oct. 6, Minneapolis Public Schools John B. Davis Educational Services Center, Minneapolis
  • Oct. 10, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College Ampitheater, Cloquet
  • Oct. 11, Beltrami County Administration Building, Bemidji
  • Oct. 12, Moorhead City Hall, Moorhead
  • Oct. 13, Stearns County Administration Center, St. Cloud
  • Oct. 14, Blue Earth County Justice Center, Mankato

Those who will give oral presentations at the hearings have already been selected. Names can be found online at the court’s website.

Written and emailed presentations can still be submitted by:

  • Deliver one original and one copy of your written statement to a public hearing
  • E-mail the statement to StateRedistrictingPanel@courts.state.mn.us
  • Mail one original and one copy of the statement to:
Minnesota Special Redistricting Panel
c/o Bridget Gernander, Clerk of Appellate Courts
305 Minnesota Judicial Center
25 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. BoulevardSaint Paul, Minnesota 55155

 Written statements must be received no later than Friday, Oct. 21.

The purposes of the hearings and the public input, according to the court’s order setting up the process, is to:

… give members of the public the opportunity to provide the panel with facts, opinion or concerns that may inform the redistricting process and of gathering information about Minnesota communities from Minnesota citizens.

The preservation of “communities of interest” is a well-established redistricting principle. for purposes of redistricting, “communities of interest” have been defined to include, but are not limited to, “groups of Minnesota citizens with clearly recognizable similarities of social, geographic, political, ethnic, economic or other interests.” Therefore, the panel seeks public comment about communities of interest that should be identified and preserved in the redistricting process.

 The order notes that the court’s plan will be adopted “if the legislative and executive branches of government do not reach an agreement on redistricting by Feb. 21, 2012, as required by Minn. Stat, 204B.14, subd. 1a (2010).

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