Political mapmaking heads to familiar spot: Minnesota’s courts

A 2020 census letter
A 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident in Detroit, as seen in April 2020. Legal wrangling has begun over new congressional and legislative district boundaries in Minnesota stemming from the 2020 census with the filing of a new lawsuit.
Paul Sancya/AP

Legal wrangling has begun over new Minnesota congressional and legislative district boundaries stemming from the 2020 census with the filing of a new lawsuit.

Every 10 years the political maps are redrawn to account for population shifts, with a goal of making each type of district roughly equal in size.

Since the 1970s in Minnesota, it’s a process that has spilled into the courts and resulted in judges dictating the layout.

The lawsuit filed Friday in Carver County and a parallel action in the Minnesota Supreme Court will pull in the judicial branch again. The cases name election officials as the defendants and seeks to prevent the current maps from being used in 2022.

That’s a concern because census figures have been delayed until fall and Minnesota’s Legislature has divided party control. Minnesota could also lose a congressional seat this round.

Plaintiffs cite state demographer estimates that about half of Minnesota’s counties are believed to have shed population since 2010, with the shrinking counties predominantly or entirely in greater Minnesota. That means those areas have the most to lose as the district boundaries are readjusted. 

The case brought by retired legislative redistricting expert Peter Wattson and others says judges should insist on new maps. And it says the courts should draw them if nothing clears the Legislature by this time next year.

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