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WEB Judges change the legislative map

Lenora Chu

lchu@postbulletin.com

Legislators from southeastern Minnesota peered intently at new redistricting maps released by a five-judge panel this afternoon, trying to discern who their new constituents might be.

Every 10 years, congressional and legislative districts are redrawn using Census numbers to reflect shifts in the populations.

District boundaries in southeastern Minnesota, as in the rest of the state, have changed dramatically. Seventeen House districts and nine Senate districts pair incumbents against each other, and 17 open seats have been created in the House alone.

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"This is going to be a wide open year," said Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, a Rochester Republican. "It's going to be a real dramatic change in the Legislature next year."

Next year, two senators will represent Rochester instead of one with the creation of a new Senate District 29, which includes the northern part of the city and stretches west.

In addition, three seats in the region -- one in the Senate and two in the House -- pair incumbents against each other.

Using the new map created by a five-judge panel, Sens. Kenric Scheevel and Bob Kierlin, both Republicans, have been paired against each other in Senate District 31, encompassing the southeastern-most corner of the state. The area now represented by Scheevel will no longer include Rochester.

In the House, Reps. Gregory Davids and Michelle Rifenberg have been paired in District 31B, as have Reps. Mike Osskopp and Jerry Dempsey in District 28A. All four are Republicans.

In many areas, legislators' constituencies will change dramatically.

Kiscaden's constituency, which is now the city of Rochester, will encompass numerous townships and farming areas. Her new district includes only the southern portion of the city and stretches into Wabasha County.

The districts of Reps. Fran Bradley and Dave Bishop, both Rochester Republicans, will remain the same.

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Redistricting responsibilities fell to the judges because the Republican-controlled House and DFL-controlled Senate failed to agree on a plan by today. By law, the maps had to be finished today to allow candidates to meet filing deadlines for primary elections.

The goal of redistricting is to make every vote equal by having each lawmaker represent roughly the same number of people. The outcome influences the strength of each party in government, and consequently, the policy priorities that win out during the next decade.

Scheevel, Rifenberg, Davids and Osskopp were not immediately available for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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