In 2020, states will be conducting their required census, and then, in 2021, they will redraw legislative and congressional district boundaries. We know from this recent election the enormous impact of gerrymandering. For instance, in neighboring Wisconsin, 54 percent of the voters supported the Democrats, but, nevertheless, Republicans maintained solid control of the state Assembly by a margin of 63 to 36. In other words, voters can vote overwhelmingly for one party, but gerrymandering can thwart the wishes of the voters and award control to the losing party.
This absurd perversion should be more descriptive of a banana republic than the world's leading democracy.
It comes about because we, the people, allow incumbents to draw the lines, thereby enabling them to pick their constituents rather than the other way around. It is hard to imagine a more fundamental conflict of interest, to say nothing about the appalling lack of democratic principles.
We now have the opportunity to reform our system well before 2021 and become a national model. But this will require leadership that is truly dedicated to open and fair elections that empower the voters and not the special interests. Reform must advance the guiding philosophy of government of the people, for the people and by the people.
We submit the following for public debate and consideration:
1) Creating a nonpartisan panel possibly selected by the Minnesota Supreme Court to draft a comprehensive redistricting plan in accordance with current law including a focus on fostering competition.
Upon completion, it should be submitted to the Legislature for an up-down vote.
2) Reviewing the reforms proposed by former Vice President Walter Mondale and former Gov. Al Quie relative to the selection and retention of judges. Their overall goal is to protect the independence, integrity and quality of our judicial system.
We would also add the necessity of visiting the concern of special-interest money that is poisoning many judicial systems in other states. It is imperative that we act responsibly now.
3) Moving our primary election date to June, with an eye toward eliminating caucuses and opening the process of real competition to a time of the year that invites broader voter participation. Currently, our caucus system draws fewer people than attend a Vikings football game. That is hardly representative.
It would also be wise to consider other reforms such as ranked-choice voting, declaring Election Day a holiday, online and/or mail voting, etc. Since the overall goal is to improve the quality and safety of elections, all viable proposals should be considered
4) Perhaps in many ways the most important concern is the overwhelming influence of big money in our campaigns.
In Minnesota, our parties historically depended on contributions from the many with efforts like the Republican Neighbor to Neighbor fund drives where GOP loyalists would solicit modest donations from their neighbors. The DFL, on the other hand, relied on party "bean feeds" that would bring the faithful together with similar financial objectives.
Simply put, we cannot allow government to be for sale.
Minnesota is blessed with a considerable number of capable leaders from both the private and public sectors who can be utilized in this most important endeavor. The real challenge is organization and commitment.
Toward that end, we would recommend that our secretary of state take the reigns of responsibility and commence organizing task forces drawing upon our vast array of talent. We would suggest that the Humphrey Institute of the University of Minnesota be a co-leader.
Our reasoning for lodging this enormous undertaking with the office of the secretary of state is largely that the Minnesota Constitution delegates the responsibility of elections to this office, and the office possesses the necessary expertise.
It should also be noted that the governor's administration will be preoccupied with the budget through the 2019 legislative session. On the other hand, the secretary of state has the flexibility to commence to plan and organize now.
As former leaders representing competitive political parties, we pledge our willingness to assist in this most vital undertaking.
Arne H. Carlson was a Republican governor of Minnesota from 1991 to 1999. Roger Moe was a DFL state Senate majority leader from 1981 to 2003.