Relining Districts Could Affect Voters of Color

Abi Hilden, staff writer

With the Minnesota legislature back in session and census data in, Minnesota’s voting districts have been redrawn, with their new layouts potentially having significant ramifications for people of color.

Minnesota is split into eight congressional districts, with each being split further into 67 total State Senate districts and 134 State House districts. Districts are typically redrawn every 10 years to adjust for changes in population based on current census data.

The task of redrawing the districts is normally given to the State House and State Senate. However, given the Minnesota legislature is divided along a partisan line, the state has reallocated the task to a state judicial panel of five judges.

Redistricting has become a hot button issue in politics due to the power that some voting blocks could have based on the new district lines. Nelima Sitati Munene, Executive Director for African, Career, Education & Resource (ACER), explained to the Sahan Journal how redrawing districts is important for this exact reason.

“In theory, it’s supposed to balance the political process,” Munene said, “On our end, there are some things that we were taking into consideration. For example, it’s important how the maps are drawn so that the powers of our communities are not diluted.”

Another political aspect to this process is the effect of gerrymandering on democracy. Many believe gerrymandering, which is drawing districts to favor one party or politician, is detrimental to the democratic process as it completely undermines it. However, with the new map for the state’s districts leaving most of them virtually the same, many people, like Republican operative Greg Pippin, believe that this is not the case in Minnesota.

“The judges, to their credit, they looked at Minnesota as a competitive state on the congressional level with four and four – four Republicans, four Democrats – and I think that they probably felt that that was reflective of the voters’ will over the last decade and didn’t want to upset the apple cart in a major way,” Pippin said to the Star Tribune.

The panel of judges considered four proposals, ultimately favoring the one that made the least changes to the districts. This proposal however, has disregarded advocates working to unite communities of color on House district maps. For instance, many advocated to unite all three Ojibwe First Nations, Red Lake, White Earth and Leech Lake, under new redistricting lines, however these nations are now remaining split at the House level. More communities of color, like the majority Black immigrant community of Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park as well as Latino communities in Chaska, Shakopee, and Jackson, also remain split at the House level.

With that, midterm elections are steadily approaching and every seat in the State House and State Senate are up for reelection. With these mostly unchanged House district lines, many are waiting to see how voting and power changes will be affected.

There are still many ways to get involved in this process, both city and county districts are in the process of redistricting too. The deadline for city districts is March 29 and the deadline for county districts is April 26. Anastasia Belladonna-Carrera, Executive Director for the Minnesota chapter of Common Cause, spoke to the Sahan Journal urging citizens to get involved in the coming months.

“There’s still an opportunity to learn more about what’s happening at the local level and to get involved by either sending an email, leaving a voice message, or submitting a written statement.”