by Mike Knaak
New maps published Feb. 15 show St. Joseph will be part of two legislative districts as a part of the once-a-decade rebalancing of political boundaries to reflect the latest population count.
About half of St. Joseph will move to District 14 and the rest of the city will remain in District 13.
St. Joseph residents south of CR 75 and east of College Avenue will now be part of District 14, which includes St. Cloud, St. Augusta and Waite Park.
Currently, Republican Jeff Howe represents District 13 in the Senate and Republican Lisa Demuth represents House District 13A.
All legislative districts will be up for election in 2022 as well as the governor and other constitutional officers such as secretary of state and attorney general.
While losing part of St. Joseph, District 13A district will pick up voters in northern Stearns County. House District 13A as well as Senate 13 will now include all of Avon Township and Farming, Albany and Krain townships, including the cities of Albany and St. Anthony. Zion Township, west of Roscoe, will be part of District 12.
The new boundaries were drawn by a nonpartisan five-judge panel because the divided legislature couldn’t agree on the maps, as has happened every decade for the last 50 years.
The 2020 Census showed significant population growth in an arc from metro St. Cloud through the Twin Cities to Rochester while the rest of the state’s population remained stable or even declined.
For example, House District 13A, which wraps around St. Cloud and extends southwest to Paynesville, only grew by .5 percent since 2010 while House District 13B, which includes fast-growing Sartell, saw nearly a 12 percent increase. As a result, 13A needed to gain people and House 13B, now represented by Republican Tim O’Driscoll, needed to lose some people.
Redistricting aims to produce districts that are close to the same size while also keeping compact shapes. The redistricting panel set the ideal Senate district to represent 85,172 people and the ideal House district to represent 42,586 people. With the new boundaries, Senate 13 has 85,750 people, House 13A has 42,773 people and House 13B has 42,977 people.
The panel also redrew congressional districts. To balance population in the growing 6th District, Brockway, Holding, Avon townships and the northwest two-thirds of St. Wendel township will now be part of the 7th Congressional district. The move includes the cities of Holdingford and St. Stephen. Republican Tom Emmer currently represents the 6th District, which extends from the St. Cloud area and wraps around the west and north of the Twin Cities. The 7th District covers almost all of the western half of Minnesota from the Canadian border to Pipestone in the southwest. Republican Michelle Fischbach represents the sprawling, but sparsely populated 7th.
Politicians will closely examine the new maps looking for an advantage. In the Legislature, Democrats will be looking to take back the Senate where the Republicans hold a slim majority. Republicans will be looking for chances to gain House seats, where the Democrats hold a six-seat majority. All 67 Senate seats, 134 House seats will be up for election in 2022.
Minnesota’s eight congressional seats were evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans until the death of Rep. Jim Hagedorn on Feb. 17. Hagedorn, a Republican, represented the First district, which covers southern Minnesota including Rochester, Austin and Mankato. There will be a special primary on May 24 followed by a special election to fill the seat on Aug. 9, the same day as Minnesota’s statewide primary election.