Group gets input for redistricting plan
A legislative committee concerned with redrawing the boundaries of Minnesota's political districts heard from 10 people on Friday during a public hearing in Rochester.
"We're trying to hit all the corners of the state as much as we can," said Rep. Sarah Anderson, a Plymouth Republican who heads the House Redistricting Committee. The panel already has been in Marshall and Hermantown.
The committee will redraw the boundaries for 201 legislative districts and eight congressional seats. Redistricting is required as a result of population changes recorded in the 2010 Census.
In Rochester, committee members heard loud and clear that the city wishes to retain its current setup, with two senate districts and four house districts centered around Rochester.
"Start in the city and work outward" to redistrict the region, said Mayor Ardell Brede. "That was the approach taken in the 2002 redistricting, and we believe it has worked well for our citizens."
And there are many, many more citizens. Rochester's population increased by 21,000 between 2000 and 2010, a 16.7 percent rate of growth that more than doubled the 7.9 percent statewide growth rate.
"We're a hub," said Lisa Clarke, division chairwoman of public affairs at Mayo Foundation. "As you move forward with your deliberations, ... please keep it in mind."
The committee is working with a Feb. 21, 2012, deadline to establish the new boundaries. Once those lines are set, local governments will have up to 60 days to draw their own lines for local districts, wards and precincts. The boundaries have to be in place before candidates file to run in the 2012 election.
Districts are supposed to be drawn to be roughly equal in terms of size, population and makeup. A successful redistricting process equalizes political power across the overall population — or, as state demographer Tom Gillaspy put it, "one person, one vote."
Another potential fallout of redistricting was pointed out by Chelsea Glaubitz of rural Rochester. Noting that only 30 percent of state house and senate members are female, she asked the committee to avoid redrawing boundaries in ways that would threaten to reduce that percentage. (For example, combining districts so that two incumbent women are set against each other in an election.)
Population and demographic shifts are "our guiding force in redrawing these lines," Anderson said.