WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Feb. 15, a special redistricting panel appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court released new maps for Minnesota’s legislative and congressional districts. The panel, made up of state judges from different levels of Minnesota’s judicial system, was convened last summer after two lawsuits were filed in state court in anticipation of an eventual impasse in the state’s redistricting process. The panel accepted map proposals from the various parties in the consolidated lawsuit and held oral argument in early January about the maps to prepare to take over the redistricting process. As expected, the Minnesota Legislature was unable to pass new maps by the Feb. 15 deadline and the panel stepped in today to ensure that new maps are in place for the next election cycle.
The panel did not adopt any of the map proposals put forth by the parties in the impasse case, but instead “some proposed elements are reflected in” the final plans. In its two orders adopting final congressional and legislative maps, the panel focused on how the newly adopted districts addressed population shifts since the last census while following a least-change approach, recognizing that “we are not positioned to draw entirely new…districts, as the legislature could choose to do. Rather, start with the existing districts, changing them as necessary to remedy the constitutional defect by applying politically neutral redistricting principles.” The panel also stated that they followed a set of neutral redistricting criteria when redrawing lines: complying with the Voting Rights Act and 14th and 15th Amendments; respecting Native American reservation boundaries; creating “convenient,” contiguous and compact districts; preserving communities of interest; respecting political subdivisions and ensuring that districts do not protect or promote any political party or candidates. The panel also acknowledged that Minnesota’s population growth over the last decade largely came from communities of color and stated that the new legislative and congressional districts reflect this growth.