City ward redistricting may alter representation

This year a charter commission will decide the new district boundaries.

by Andre Eggert

When Minneapolis residents go to the polls Nov. 2, they will be voting on not only political candidates, but how the city wards will
be divided.
An initiative on the ballot would remove political parties from the redistricting process. Instead, a judge-appointed Charter Commission would draw new boundaries for city wards âÄî possibly changing residentsâÄô city council representation.
The current redistricting process, which is done every 10 years, has parties deciding where the boundaries are drawn, which leaves many people unhappy, Barry Clegg, chairman of the Charter Commission, said.
The way redistricting was done last time was âÄúpretty unusualâÄù for a city the size of Minneapolis, he said, noting that most of the time, city councils do it themselves or have a non-partisan group do it.
In 2002, all major political parties in Minnesota were represented in the redistricting of the city. This included two Republican and two Independence Party  members, neither of which has representation in heavily Democratic  Minneapolis.
The Green Party, which has some representation in the City Council, was only allowed one member on the redistricting group.
âÄúIt is by design a political process,âÄù Clegg said. âÄúWhen you are appointed by your party âĦ you fight for everything you can get.âÄù
He said that even with all of the problems with redistricting last time, boundaries are unlikely to change too much.
The proposal was urged on by City Council members and has received the support of the DFL, meaning it will be on their sample ballot that is handed out before the election.
There is very little opposition to proposed changes.
But Carol Becker of the Board of Estimate and Taxation said she is opposed to changes and believes the Charter Commission might not be the best to draw the lines. She said the commission has put several referendums before the city without voter petitions.
One such referendum would have abolished the Board of Estimation and Taxation. However, it did not pass.
Clegg, a supporter, also pointed out that the board does not have much diversity, whether by race, location of residence or age. Because of this, the commission will have an advisory group to bring in other perspectives.
Common Cause Minnesota, a group that promotes fair elections and transparent government, is neutral on the issue.
CCM has been pushing the city to go further than the current plan to ensure fairness, Executive Director Michael Dean said.
The group is pushing for transparency in the process, more public meetings and earlier announcements of ward boundaries, he said.
CCM is fighting to protect âÄúcommunities of interest,âÄù such as areas with large minority populations or the University of Minnesota, which has a number of young people living nearby.
Dean said students should get involved in the process, even if it seems dry.
âÄúYou often see student neighborhoods divided into two with the sole purpose of making sure students donâÄôt have a majority in a particular ward so they donâÄôt have representation.âÄù
âÄúThat has not happened in Minneapolis, thank goodness,âÄù Dean said. âÄúBut it could.âÄù
This is an opportunity to better define the city of Minneapolis, he said.
âÄúThe redistricting process can be used to empower or disenfranchise communities,âÄù Dean said. âÄúWe want to make sure itâÄôs used to
empower the community.âÄù