Minnesota politicians may regard their legislative and congressional districts as home turf, but one group's plan to redraw district boundaries would make their neighborhoods a little less friendly.
Maps to be unveiled Friday by the Citizens Redistricting Commission would throw two Republican members of Congress and dozens of DFL and Republican members of the Legislature into the same districts. That means, if a special redistricting panel adopts the proposal, incumbents like U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann of Stillwater and Chip Cravaack of Lindstrom would have to run against each other next year unless they move or decide not to run for re-election.
"Let the chips fall where they may," said Kent Kaiser, vice chair of the commission, a multipartisan group whose plan focused on not diluting minority voters' strength and on keeping districts within tidy geographic areas, rather than protecting incumbents.
The commission's maps, along with proposals from other groups and testimony collected at public hearings around the state, will be considered by a five-judge Special Redistricting Panel, which is to make its final decision by Feb. 21 -- unless DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature reach an agreement.
The state judicial panel will hear arguments about what criteria should be used to draw the final maps next week.
The current redistricting debate is part of the every-10-years redrawing of political maps based on the census. The aim is to ensure that each district has roughly the same population. The resultant maps could give one party or another lean years or years of plenty until the maps are redrawn again in 2022.
In the commission's plan, Kaiser said, 18 new state House and Senate districts would pair Republican incumbents against each other, and 17 districts on would pit current DFLers against each other. Another seven state House and Senate districts would pit Republican incumbents against DFL incumbents.
The volunteer commission that produced the maps is a project of a coalition that includes the League of Women Voters Minnesota, the Minnesota Council of Non-profits, the Minnesota Democracy Network, Common Cause Minnesota and Take Action Minnesota.
Candi Walz, a Lindstrom businesswoman and political science instructor, chaired the commission. Kaiser, of St. Paul, a professor at Northwestern College and a former assistant in the Minnesota secretary of state's office, was the vice chair.
The proposed congressional map was drawn with an eye to the request that northern Minnesota Indian tribes be in the same congressional district, which meant that the 8th Congressional District was extended to the west. Moving the lines to allow for that community to be joined politically meant current 8th District Rep. Cravaack's home would be included in the largely suburban 6th Congressional District, now represented by Bachmann.
Kaiser and Walz said they believe the court should ignore where incumbents live and instead concentrate on preserving "communities of interest," which means trying to keep from crossing city and county lines and to try to protect common economic, cultural or demographic interests. The group's report said "cities want to be kept whole" and "economic corridors want to share state and federal representation." The proposed map would group western Minnesota's agricultural and rural regions in a redrawn 7th Congressional District.
Walz, who is not related to Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato, said the goal of ensuring "fair and non-diluting minority representation" is a response to low representation in elective office. "There's six members of color in the Legislature," she said. "If we did it based on population alone, we should have 30."
Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042