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Minnesota's former leaders call for a new redistricting system

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, National campaigns, Democrats, Republicans Updated: March 8, 2011 - 1:10 PM

Minnesota's former political leaders want to take the blood sport out of that most political process -- redistricting.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale, former U.S. Rep. Tim Penny, former state Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, former House Speaker Steve Sviggum and former Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice Kathleen Blatz say a panel of retired judges, not self-interested lawmakers, should draw the lines that determine political boundaries.

"Where we're hoping the public would pick their politicians, increasingly this system allows the politicians to pick their public," said Mondale.

Former Republican governors Arne Carlson and Al Quie joined in the call for an independent commission, made up of former judges, to draw the lines. The governors did not join the group of Republicans, Democrats and Independence Party former elected officials to unveil their plan.

For the former lawmakers, there was a bit of do as we say not as we did element to the proposal.

Sviggum and Moe both recalled the redistricting fights in which they participating during their time leading the Legislature. While they didn't come up with a reform proposal at the time, they say now their experience makes them believe the state needs a new system.

Despite the decennial fight over the drawing of the lines, lawmakers have "failed," Sviggum said, to complete redistricting without court involvement. For the last 40 years, courts have ended up creating redistricting plans when divided Capitol powers could not agree.

Most expect the new lines, required before the 2012 elections and based on new population data released by the Census bureau, will also end up being drawn by a judicial panel after the Democratic governor and Republican Legislature fail to agree.

Gov. Mark Dayton said he agreed with the idea "in principal."

"I think the independent commission is a better approach," Dayton said.

Lawmakers, however, this year quickly rejected the advice of the Minnesota elders.

State Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, put out a statement saying that the Legislature bears constitutional responsibility for drawing the lines.

"The Legislature is an elected body and we are accountable to the people of Minnesota. A commission is not," she said.

Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, said she believed the Legislature could "produce a fair, representative plan and map for the entire state."

Michael Brodkorb piled on.

Via Twitter he wrote: "Elected representatives should be involved in the redistricting process, not an unelected panel of retired political appointees."

It is unclear if his comment represented his view as executive assistant to the Minnesota Republican Senate caucus or as the deputy chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party. Brodkorb is also the party's lead on redistricting issues.

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