Bachmann vs. Cravaack? Matchup could happen under citizens’ redistricting plan

Republican Michele Bachmann versus Republican Chip Cravaack to hold onto a seat in the U.S. House?

It could happen, if the courts decide that a redistricting map created by the nonpartisan Citizens’ Redistricting Commission creates the sort of fair political boundaries Minnesotans should live with for the next decade.

The commission’s report and map (PDF) — released to the public this morning and to be given to a judicial panel that almost certainly will end up drawing the final lines — is substantially different from the plan created by the Republican-led Minnesota Legislature during the last session. That map, which lacked anything resembling bipartisan support in the Legislature, was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Courts likely to have final word on redistricting
Assuming lawmakers fail to come up with a different plan that receives support of DFLers — a safe assumption — the courts will be obligated to create maps by late February that will determine who votes where and who runs against whom.

Those maps would cover Minnesota’s eight congressional districts, 67 state Senate districts and the corresponding 134 House districts.

The 15 volunteers of the commission, who held 18 public hearings in the last couple of months, hope their map will give the courts a meaningful guideline.

The commission was put together by the Draw the Line Minnesota coalition, which includes Common Cause Minnesota, the League of Women Voters Minnesota, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and TakeAction Minnesota.

A map of the Citizens' Redistricting Commission redistricting proposal.
Source: The Citizens’ Redistricting Commission
A map of the Citizens’ Redistricting Commission redistricting proposal.

“Our work is done,” said Candi Walz, chairwoman of the commission. “It’s not a perfect map, but we think it’s a sound map.”

Of course, when pols of both major parties get their first looks at the maps, there almost certainly will be howls of protest.

Many of those protests may well be over the newly reformed 6th District, which has been the Bachmann district.

But under the commission’s proposal, Cravaack, who lives in the outer northern suburbs of the metro region, would move from the 8th to the 6th.

[Related: Redistricting plans: how they compare]

The commission’s thinking: Isanti County has more in common with Anoka County and the northern suburbs than it does with the Iron Range. So, St. Cloud, which has been part of the 6th, was moved into the 7th. Isanti County, meanwhile, was dropped from the 8th to the 6th.

Those decisions, Walz said, did not come without input at hearings.

What members of the commission were told, she said, was that people in and around St. Cloud felt they had more in common with the predominately rural 7th District. They also were told at other hearings that many felt the 6th “always has been the leftover district” that was merely slapped together with no regard to common interest.

Four principles
It was the job of the commission to come up with equal populations in each congressional and legislative district and wrap those districts around these four principles:

• Preserve communities of interest;

• Ensure fair and non-diluting minority representation;

• Do not intentionally protect or defeat incumbents;

• And create compact districts.

Look again at that 6th District boundary, as opposed to the one created by Republican legislators. Recall, they created something of a “Cravaack district, that would have moved him into a 7th District made up mostly of far northern suburbs and exurbs.

The 6th would have continued to include St. Cloud. The new 8th District would have stretched border-to-border across the top 25 percent of northern Minnesota, meaning Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, long time 7th District congressman, would suddenly have found himself living in the 8th District.

Members of the commission understand the reality of politics — and the furor that could result if Cravaack and Bachmann actually did end up facing off.

Although Bachmann has not made clear her future plans beyond a fading presidential run, most expect that she will not choose to run again for the House.

There are other changes in the congressional map that presumably would seem substantial, at least to current officeholders.

For example, both the 4th and 5th Districts (seats currently held by Democrats Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, respectively) needed higher population numbers for the required one-person, one-vote balance. Under this plan, the 4th grows by dropping south into such communities as Inver Grove Heights.

“People there work in St. Paul,” said Walz of why that change makes sense.

Meantime, the 5th District was nudged farther into western suburbs, and the 3rd District (represented by GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen) was bumped slightly southwest.

New boundaries for all legislative seats, too
Clearly, many of the state’s 201 legislators will find substantial changes proposed for their Senate and House districts.

But Walz repeatedly noted that those changes were based on results of population shifts, input gathered in public hearings, objective Geographical Information System data provided by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs..

There are no guarantees, of course, that the courts will use any of the work done by the commission.

But clearly the principles guiding the commission’s work are different from the principles used by pols when they attempt — and always fail — to create the maps that have so much to do with shaping Minnesota politics.

The motto of the commission showed how different its goals were from tkose of legislators: “Voters should pick their politicians, not the other way around.”

Related: Redistricting plans: how they compare

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/21/2011 - 10:00 am.

    I can see the wisdom in this map. Could we get the current map, the vetoed map, and this map put side by side by side?

  2. Submitted by James Hamilton on 10/21/2011 - 10:00 am.

    A map of the current district boundaries would be a helpful addition to this piece.

  3. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 10/21/2011 - 10:18 am.

    I like this. The moving of St. Cloud and Isanti county is consistent with the first principle, and other than that things look more or less the same.

  4. Submitted by Ross Williams on 10/21/2011 - 10:37 am.

    Just a reminder, people don’t have to live in the house district they represent. The constitution only requires that they live in the state. Any resident of Minnesota can run for congress in any district they choose.

  5. Submitted by Pat Thompson on 10/21/2011 - 10:44 am.

    This makes a lot more sense as a way to do redistricting. I hope it is adopted everywhere. Then the challenge will be to make sure the members of the commission don’t become puppets of the usual vested interests.

  6. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/21/2011 - 11:41 am.

    Hard to argue with the commission’s motto – unless you’re an incumbent.

    I’ve no idea if this map will appeal to long-time residents of the state, but since I’m not one, it appeals to me. The ‘Strib story mentioned the state’s Indian tribes as a “community of interest” that would like to, and I’d argue, ought to, have greater impact on the legislature and a Congressional race. Farming and mining interests can also plausibly be thought of as “communities of interest,” so I’ve no objection to the commission’s split of the 7th and 8th Districts, either, though it’s easy to see why Congressional incumbents might be less enthused.

    I don’t know the state house and senate districts well enough to know what impact the commission’s map would have on the state legislature. It appears on the surface, at least, to be reasonably faithful to the first three of the four principles listed. As illustrated on the map, the 8th Congressional district still meets that goal, but the 7th Congressional District reminds me very strongly of Colorado’s 4th District, which, while on the opposite side of the state, essentially serves the same purpose of lumping together a lengthy string of sparsely-populated counties. Colorado’s 4th District runs the full length of the state from north to south, and the commission’s proposed 7th District comes pretty close to doing the same thing here.

    That exception aside, this map looks like one especially designed to support principle #3 – to neither protect nor defeat incumbents. Many incumbents will regard that as unfair on its face, accustomed as some are to a sure thing on election day, but voters may well like it, and like or not, it’s the courts that will decide, which is, I’d argue, as it should be. One more reason to like the commission’s motto…

  7. Submitted by Don Effenberger on 10/21/2011 - 12:46 pm.

    Nos. #1 and #2, that’s a great idea. Thanks. We’ve just added such a comparison. You can see the information here:

  8. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 10/21/2011 - 03:14 pm.

    This has been a stellar commission with the interests of Minnesota taking precedence over any political ambitions. Thank you, members.

    Note to Ross (#4) — Don’t tell Michele Bachmann.

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