Political Forecast:  STORM WARNINGS AHEAD

By Dan Mikel

 

One does not have to be a meteorologist to know that there is a political storm brewing.  It is expected to make landfall sometime in October (give or take a month or so). 

 

Centered in St. Paul, the political storm will affect all of Minnesota from International Falls to Winona and all points east, west, north and south.

The name of the storm is REAPPORTIONMENT.  A strange name, but one that appears in print every ten years.   As mandated in the U.S. Constitution, we need to draw up boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts so that they are as equal in population as is reasonably possible.  Over the years there have been countless court cases dealing with this subject.  Try goggling the name of Hamline University professor “David Schultz” with the word “reapportionment” and you will find some excellent explanations of the subject.

Minnesota has changed since the last census in 2000.  Our urban areas have more people, our rural area have lost population or have not grown as much as urban areas.    We have a higher percentage of people of Black or Indigenous people or other people of color. (BIPOC).  In 2000 the BIPOC population in Minnesota was 11.8% and today it is 21.4%.  None of these changes are surprising, but all of them have political implications.

Minnesota will maintain its eight congressional districts.  That’s a surprise, since we expected to lose one seat, but we edged out New York by 89 residents.   The boundaries of the congressional districts are expected to remain about the same, with some minor tweaks here and there.

The big changes will be in state legislative districts.  Urban and suburban boundaries will change.  With increased population density, urban and suburban districts will be smaller geographically.  Rural districts, on the other hand, will grow larger geographically.  The reason for all these changes?  Districts have to be of roughly equal population.

The GOP-controlled Minnesota Senate and the DFL-controlled MN House of Representatives will valiantly try to find a compromise as they strive to do re-districting.  Most likely their efforts will be in vain and the responsibility of re-districting will go to the courts.  Indeed, with one exception, Minnesota’s courts have been responsible for drawing the political boundaries since the 1960s

What’s at stake?  DFLers want to have as many state legislators as possible in order to advance progressive legislation.  Republicans, on the other hand, want to have as many Republican legislators as possible in order to advance their own agenda.

Right now Republicans have a 34(R)-31)DFL)-2 (Ind.) majority in the Minnesota State Senate and Democrats have a 70-64 majority in the Minnesota House.  With their paper thin majority in the Minnesota State Senate, Republicans can and have blocked Democratic initiatives. 

District boundary lines will result in the future legislative efforts for the next ten years. 

As David Schultz wrote in the February 16, 2021 issue of the Minnesota Lawyer,

 “The history of Minnesota’s reapportionment process is a tale of partisanship, changing demographics, conflict of interests, judicial intervention, and the battle for political supremacy.  It is the essence of what power politics is all about when the political stakes are high.”

The stakes are high and the future results are not clear at this time.  The best we can forecast is clear to partly cloudy.  We know we have to be alert and be able to zig and zag with the changes that are coming and continue to promote and defend the rights of retirees.