The 2020 census results shook up Congress this week. Based on shifting populations, the state of Texas gained two seats. Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon each gained a seat. At the same time, seven states each lost a seat: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Minnesota eked out the last seat in Congress by a mere 89 people, edging out New York to complete the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Next comes redistricting which will no doubt add to the fervor and fiery rhetoric about preserving our democracy and ensuring fair voting nationwide.
Redistricting is the process of redrawing the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts. This process happens every 10 years to adjust for population changes following the census. Put simply, voting districts are reshaped to ensure representation is proportionately distributed. In the Minnesota legislature right now, each senator currently represents about 80,000 persons, and each representative about 40,000.
In Minnesota, the legislature controls the redistricting process. In theory, a set of district maps would be approved by the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate, then signed into law by the governor.
Redistricting must be accomplished in time for the first state general election after each census, which would be the 2022 election in Minnesota. If the legislature and governor do not accomplish this, courts intervene to draw new legislative district lines.
Our 134 representatives include 59 Republicans, 70 Democrats and five others. Our 67 senators currently include 34 Republicans, 31 Democrats and two others. United we stand, but divided … well, we’ve seen how that goes.
With great power comes great responsibility.
As the non-partisan group League of Women Voters explains in their People Powered Fair Maps initiative, “Relying on politicians to fix the redistricting system is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.”
We need clear and impartial rules for redistricting to prevent gerrymandering and party or self-preservation. Or we need a neutral third party to weigh in.
While the state constitution requires the legislature provide final approval of maps, Minnesota should create a special commission to draft the district maps based on population numbers and not on voting tendencies or party alignment.
Voters should come first, not individual political aspirations.