The population of the United States shrinks, grows, and shifts around dynamically. This presents a challenge, as the U.S. Constitution (Section I, Section 2) requires that each Representative in Congress represent an equal number of citizens. The process of adjusting and realigning the population blocks that vote to elect our representatives is called “redistricting”.
In 1929, Congress capped the membership of the U.S. House of Representatives at 435. In 1941, it adopted the current formula for reapportioning those House seats.
Monday, April 26, the Census bureau released information indicating that MN would keep its 8 Congressional Districts. Reapportionment, or redistricting, takes place every decade following the conduct of the national census. Seven states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming) currently have only one Congressional seat, due to their low population. Montana will gain another seat, the remaining 6 states will still have only one. For some of the other 42 states, the latest Census data will lead to the loss or addition of Congressional seats and the redrawing of Congressional District boundaries.
Minnesota also reapportions its state senate districts based on the Census data. Congressional district and senate district boundaries may be adjusted to rebalance their populations to be within 10% of the other congressional and senate districts. When a senate district boundary is adjusted, its associated house districts are also adjusted to be in relative alignment.
The size of the precincts is left up to the cities in which they are contained. While Minnesota does not have a requirement that all precincts contain the same relative number of people, the cities may decide to adjust or even split precincts depending on the growth of population in those precincts. A precinct must be wholly contained within a house district. However, a house district (and therefore a senate district) may straddle two congressional districts. For example, Edina Precincts 3, 4, 8, 9, and 14 are in House District 49A, Senate District 49, and Congressional District 5. The other Edina precincts in House District 49A are also in Senate District 49, but Congressional District 3.
The Census data that will drive this process is expected to be provided to the states this fall. The target date to get the detailed state population adjustment data is September. In Minnesota, the responsibility to redraw district lines is held by the legislature. Given that the MN House and MN Senate are each controlled by a different political party, the agreement on new lines may prove a challenge. If no agreement can be reached, the Minnesota Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the process.
Final resolution of the redistricting process can clearly take some time. If legislative agreement cannot be reached on congressional and senate district lines, the final configuration of the districts may not be resolved until a month or two into 2022. It may not happen until after the precinct caucuses are held.
The longer it takes, the less time the political parties will have to do the work they need to do.
Redistricting could mean that congressional districts and senate districts end up with different configurations of precincts. The State Party needs to provide all of the senate district leaders with
- their new configuration and new boundaries
- their allocation of delegates and alternates to the 2022 congressional district and state endorsing convention
- suggested guidance on how senate district financial reserves should be dispersed. In the past, this has been done by the proportion of precincts retained and transferred between senate districts
A number of challenges will need to be faced:
- 2022 caucuses. Caucuses are planned and conducted by house and senate districts. Much of the preparatory work may need to be done before it is clear what the impact of redistricting will be. Caucus material will still need to be created and facilitators will still need to be trained.
- 2022 senate district conventions. Since boundaries may be redrawn and precincts reallocated, some senate district executive officers may find that they no longer live within the boundaries of the district in which they were elected. Special elections should be planned to elect new officers. Even-year senate district conventions, which typically hold elections for delegates and alternates to congressional district and state endorsing conventions, will now also need to hold senate district executive officer elections.
- Senate District bylaws. If a block of strong precincts is reallocated to a new senate district, their precinct leaders may want to retain some of the procedures that they enjoyed in their previous senate district. Reviewing and revising bylaws can be contentious and time-consuming. Congressional District leadership may want to bring together their senate district leaders this year to consider revising bylaws to incorporate best practices and make them more common.