ST. PAUL -- Lawmakers' yearlong struggle to draw new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts will end in failure if they can't agree by Tuesday afternoon.
A five-judge panel will release their own redistricting plans at 1 p.m. Tuesday if the Legislature is still squabbling, which is nearly certain -- although House and Senate leaders plan to work until the last minute.
"Despite the slight one percent, two percent chance we have not ruled it out," said Rep. Erik Paulsen, chairman of the House Redistricting Committee.
His Senate counterpart, Larry Pogemiller, acknowledged that finishing the job by Tuesday would be a long shot, but added that he's "the eternal optimist."
The House and Senate have been working separately on redistricting plans for more than a year and have made little progress in coming together.
"We still have not broken any new ground, unfortunately," Paulsen said, adding that the difficulty was trying to merge two "vastly different concepts."
Among the differences is that the Republican-led House wants to combine Minneapolis and St. Paul into a single congressional district. They say the cities have more in common with each other than with the suburbs surrounding them.
The state's two largest cities also haven't grown as quickly as their suburbs (where nearly half of the state's population now lives) in recent years, making the combined area a decent-sized single district.
But Democrats and a panel appointed by Gov. Jesse Ventura oppose the consolidation, saying the areas are distinctly different and should keep their own representation. The two districts traditionally have elected Democrats.
Among other differences, the Ventura proposal has a congressional district that runs from the Iowa border along the west side of the state up to Canada. It also increases the number of districts in the metropolitan area from four to five, with three in greater Minnesota.
The GOP plan would put nearly the entire northern third of the state into one district. The DFL proposal works to keep the maps as close to the current districts as possible. Both keep the balance of metropolitan districts to greater Minnesota districts at four-four.
As for the legislative plans, the Democrats' pits more Republicans against each other in this year's election. The reverse is true for the Republicans' plan. And Ventura's proposal would match up many more incumbents than either of the others -- about a third of the Legislature.
The House, Senate and Ventura's panel each submitted their maps to the court panel, which could adopt one of those proposals or draw the maps from scratch.
All sides said allowing the decision to fall to the courts would be disappointing, but said at least they were able to forward public comments from the many hearings they held to the judges.
"I presume the court will use a lot of what we learned," Pogemiller said.
The Legislature is required by constitution to draw new maps once every decade to reflect population changes shown in the latest census. The goal is to make each district represent roughly the same number of people.
The outcome of redistricting can influence the strength of each party in government, and consequently, the policy priorities that win out over the next decade.
Joe Mansky, who led the governor's redistricting panel, said having Ventura as an active participant likely slowed the process or at least caused lawmakers to rethink their strategies.
Despite that, Mansky said "it was the right thing for the governor to do to get involved."
Republicans have less to lose if the courts ultimately end up drawing the plans because the existing maps reflect several decades of DFL domination over the redistricting process.
The court panel is made up of three judges appointed by Republican governors and two appointed by Democratic governors.
"We've always felt if in the end it did come down it, the court would issue a fair plan," Paulsen said.
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