One of the most important tasks facing the 2002 Minnesota Legislature is that of redistricting -- the process of setting boundary lines for the 2002 elections for congressional and legislative districts. The readjustments come when population figures from the 2000 Census are applied. And, so far, the process looks brutal. If lawmakers cannot come to agreement -- which is a distinct possibility -- then as of March 15 a five-judge courts panel will make the decision for them.
Cries of playing politics are frequent when it comes time to setting boundaries, and this year is no exception. Both the DFL and Republican parties crafted redistricting proposals last spring. Finding compromise between the two is unlikely.
At the congressional level, the Republicans recognize their political strength in the suburbs and want to build that power base. Their redistricting plan would put inner city Minneapolis and St. Paul in the same congressional district. They would also combine the 7th and 8th Congressional districts into one, huge northern Minnesota district. Now two DFLers represent those districts, and we believe it would be impossible for one person to represent the diverse interests from Duluth and the Iron Range to Moorhead and Thief River Falls.
At the legislative level, it is the DFL which is playing games with legislative districts. The party was unable to unseat 4A and 4B Republican legislators in the 2000 elections, so they would put both districts into one under redistricting plans and force Reps. Doug Fuller and Larry Howes to face each other first. Under the House GOP plan, DFL state Sens. Roger Moe and LeRoy Stumpf would square off.
Enter Gov. Jesse Ventura, whose redistricting plan is also geared to ensure more Independence Party-likely seats based on voting patterns for him in 1998. He also advocates the single, huge northern Minnesota congressional district.
Working Group Chairman Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, says that "redistricting is the constitutional duty of the Legislature, and it is our duty to abide by our oaths of office to fulfill our mandate to enact redistricting plans." But based on what has been presented, there is serious doubt that political power struggles can be set aside to find a plan that will represent Minnesota's unique geographic and demographic factors.
-- The Pioneer of Bemidji
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