All eyes at the Capitol will be on www.mncourts.gov
at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Lawmaking will effectively cease as attention turns to new district maps, due to be issued by a five-judge Special Redistricting Panel appointed by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea.
Every legislator and staffer in the Capitol has a stake in where new district lines are set. One possible outcome is most feared: landing in the same district as another incumbent, possibly someone from one’s own party, often a friend.
Legislators from parts of the state that lost population or grew slowly in the past 10 years are considered more vulnerable to that kind of pain. Such districts must grow geographically as district populations are equalized. Pairings are considered most likely in parts of the city of Minneapolis
, where the all-DFL delegation is bracing for bad news, and inner-ring western suburbs and southwestern Minnesota.
A pairing of legislators from opposite parties can set up a hard-fought fall campaign. When members of the same party are paired, they have several options. An earlier-than-planned retirement might ensue. So might deciding to run for a different office, duking it out in a primary, or moving to a nearby open district, should one be available. That last option would require fast action. Legislative candidates must be residents of their districts for a full six months before an election – in other words, by May 6.
When politicians draw the maps themselves, pairings tend to be minimized. When judges draw them, pairings can be plentiful. There were 34 of them when the courts were in charge in 2002, by Common Cause’s count. Between 25 and 40 pairings are expected this year, said Gregg Peppin, the GOP staffer who is the architect of a new subscription-only redistricting analysis service, available for preview at NewMapMN.com.
Legislators have had nearly a year to produce a redistricting plan that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton
would accept. They could have kept this decennial duty in their own hands. Instead, Dayton’s veto last May ended serious mapmaking by the legislative branch. They ceded this constitutional responsibility to the judicial branch, and will have no option (other than a long-shot legal appeal) but to live with the consequences for the next 10 years.