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Redistricting Maps! Round Three – The Court map, Twin Cities edition

by TonyAngelo on June 6, 2011

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe legislative session has now ended and with no deal on redistricting reached the job of drawing new district lines will go to the courts (they could work something out in a special session, but if you think that’s going to happen, I’ve got a bridge to sell you). To that end the Chief Justice of the Minnsota Supreme Court has already appointed a panel of five judges to oversee the proceedings.

Unlike maps drawn by the legislature, the courts will not look at or use things like incumbent residency or partisan performance. Instead, if 2001 is any guide, the court will draw a map that’s fairly similar to the one we have right now.

To try and figure out how the new map will be drawn, I’m first going to look at how the court decided to draw the lines in 2001 and use those same criteria for the current census data. Of course these judges are not the same ones who oversaw this process in 2001 and there’s no telling how they’ll rule this time around, but I suspect the final result will be similar.

From the 2001 court ruling:

Accordingly, approximately 53.7% of Minnesota’s population now lives in the seven-county metro area, and 58.3% of the state’s population lives in the eleven-county metropolitan statistical area. Adding the portions of St. Cloud sitting in Stearns and Benton Counties to this total, 59.4%, or closer to five-eighths than one-half, of the state’s population lives in the urban and suburban areas reaching from southeastern Dakota County to St. Cloud.

Given that Minnesota has eight congressional seats, these statistics indicate that five of the eight districts should lie in this urban/suburban area, while three of the eight districts should lie in Greater Minnesota.


This is still true, only now to a greater degree than before. The population living in the eleven-county metro area is 59.5% of the state’s population instead of the 58.3% it was ten years ago. Based on this I think it’s probably safe to assume that the new court drawn map will keep the five urban/suburban, three rural district split we have now.

As far as the arraignment of the three rural districts, again, going by the previous court ruling, it’s hard to see how they change substantially from their current configuration.

Under any five-three plan, having one district that crossed Minnesota from border to border was inevitable. Given the location of the metropolitan area in the central and eastern part of the state, we had three choices: (1) create a district extending from the North Dakota to Wisconsin borders along the northern border of the state; (2) create a district extending from Canada to Iowa along the western border of the state; or (3) create a district extending from South Dakota to Wisconsin along the southern border of the state. We chose the last option for a number of reasons.

So, what were the reasons for making the first congressional district the one that traverses the state? The court listed three:

First, the first congressional district contains the community of interest that naturally arises along a highway such as Interstate 90 and tends to run in an east-to-west direction in southern Minnesota.

Second, Minn. Const. art. IV, states that all districts must be composed of “convenient contiguous territory.” In part, “convenient” means that a district must be “within easy reach; easily accessible.” Of course, convenience is at times limited in Minnesota, as it is in other states, by the state’s shape, the availability of accessible roads in Greater Minnesota, and the need for rural districts to grow in area as their populations shrink. Minnesota’s western and northern borders may have roads that traverse them, but we have heard any number of objections to the inconvenience of using these roads and the difficulty a congressional representative would have in representing such districts. Conversely, Interstate 90 makes a district along the state’s southern border the most convenient option.

Third, of the new first, seventh and eighth congressional districts, only the eighth district has any population from the counties that are part of the metropolitan statistical area. This population resides in Isanti and Chisago Counties, which include only 12% of the districts population, are not part of the original seven-county metropolitan area, were part of the prior eighth district, and have common interests with counties to the west and north. This configuration of districts, then, best reflects the citizens of Minnesota living outside the metropolitan area.

All of those things are still true now, so the three rural districts will likely end up looking very similar to the way they currently do, with CD1 stretching across the state from South Dakota to Wisconsin and CD’s 7 and 8 splitting the northern part of the state.

Additionally, the court specifically declined to draw Minneapolis and St. Paul into a single district, as the proposed GOP map in 2001 wanted to do. I’ll have a post going over the Voting Right Act and its implications on redistricting at some point in the future, but this was the guise under which the GOP tried to combine Minneapolis and St. Paul, to create a VRA “minority opportunity” district.

Under their current configuration the voting age population of CD5 is 71% white, 29% minority and CD4 is 75% white, 25% minority. Neither of these qualifies as a “minority opportunity” district under the VRA. In attempting to draw them together the GOP said they were in fact trying to draw a “minority opportunity” district as the combined Twin Cities district would be above the 30% minority threshold.

The court didn’t see any evidence however that these minority groups had similar interests or tended to vote as a bloc. For anyone unfamiliar with the VRA, there is no definitive qualification for when a “minority opportunity” district needs to be drawn, it’s decided by the courts and Department of Justice on a case-by-case basis. And seeing as how since 2001 Keith Ellison was elected to represent CD5, it would be really hard for the GOP to make that argument this time around, and in the maps they produced they didn’t.

Based on all of this and assuming the courts don’t stray too far from past precedent it seems all but certain that the map produced by the courts will look a lot like the current map. That said there are a few different ways that the court can go. CD’s 4 and 5 both need to get bigger and how these lines get drawn will effect how the suburban/exurban district lines get drawn.

We’ll start with CD5, which needs to gain over 46,000 people. This is what CD5 currently looks like (All of these maps have been drawn in Daves Redistricting App, the pink lines represent city borders, the black county borders):

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I’ve drawn three different possible versions, descending from what are in my opinion the least to most likely outcomes. The first version of CD5 draws in Brooklyn Center and part of Brooklyn Park. The reason I think it is the least likely is because it splits Brooklyn Park off south of 694 and splitting cities is not desirable.

A few census voting blocks here and there will have to get split off to maximize population equity (Dave’s Redistricting App only goes down to the precinct level, not the voting block level, so in all of these maps there is a deviation from ideal of no more than .002%, or just over 1,000 people), but other than this, whenever possible the courts will usually decline to split a city.

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The next one completely incorporates Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center at the expense of the Anoka county cities that are currently in CD5, and St Anthony, which is in both Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

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It’s possible that this is the way the judges go, it doesn’t split any cities and keeps CD5 entirely within Hennepin county, but I don’t know how much sense it makes having one of the suburban districts coming right up to the border of Minneapolis. In 2001 the court sought to keep the first ring suburbs within the same districts as their respective cities as much as possible, so I would suspect the same rational this time.

This next one, which includes Brooklyn Center and Edina, while losing Fridley and Spring Lake Park, is probably the closest one to what the final version is likely to be. You still have a small portion of the northern suburban district sneaking up to Minneapolis’s borders, but this version is the most compact of them all and keeps all the other first ring suburbs on board while also adding Edina, which I think a good case can be made belongs in the Minneapolis district more than Fridley does.

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That’s what I think CD5 will look like in 2012, it wouldn’t really change the district too much; the demographics would be virtually unchanged, a few fractions of a point shift here and there, while the 2008 Obama percentage goes from 74.1% to 73%. So it’s essentially the exact same district as it is now.

With CD5 done, let’s move over to CD4, which currently looks like this:

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CD4 needs to add just over 48,000 people to a district that right now includes all of Ramsey county (except for small portions of St. Anthony and Blaine) and parts of Dakota and Washington counties.

The first version I don’t think would happen, because it would split Anoka county between three congressional districts and is the least compact of the three. Additionally the court was skeptical in 2001 of drawing rural parts of the state into the same districts with the big cities, meaning I don’t think they’d want this district to go all the way out to the St. Croix.

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This next one, like the second CD5 map, could happen, but it doubles down on pushing CD out to the river, this time sacrificing all of St. Paul’s southern suburbs.

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It’s a perfectly reasonable district and would make Dakota county whole again, but if 2001 is any guide the judges won’t view the St. Croix River areas as really belonging in the urban CD4 and will prefer to keep Mendota Heights, West and South St. Paul in the district instead.

Which leads to the next map, essentially the current configuration plus Woodbury.

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That’s what I think CD4 will look like in 2012, and like with CD5, it wouldn’t really change the district too much; the demographics would be virtually unchanged, a few fractions of a point shift here and there, while the 2008 Obama percentage goes from 64.4% to 63.3%. Just like with CD5, CD4 would be essentially the same district it is now.

Here then is what I think the most likely configuration of the newly drawn Twin Cities districts will be:

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In the next installment I’ll try and figure out how the rest of the state will look.

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