Last reviewed June 2018
This page is under development
Minnesota Issues Resource Guides
This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to state legislators. It introduces the topic and points to sources for further research. It is not intended to be exhaustive.
There are 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Those seats are divided, or apportioned, among the states based on each state's population. According to the U.S. Constitution, a census of the population of each state shall be conducted once every ten years to ensure that the representation of each state is apportioned fairly. The U.S. Census Bureau conducted the 2010 Census to determine the population of each state. Using that data, the Census Bureau will then calculate the number of representatives per state. The representation of each state must reflect the relative size of its population as compared to other states and every state must have at least one seat. Title 13, U.S. Code requires that the apportionment population counts for each state be delivered to the President within 9 months of the census date. In the 2010 Census and most 20th century censuses, the census date has been April 1, meaning that the Office of the President received the counts by December 31 of each census year. The apportionment process does not affect U.S. Senate seats since each state has two senators, regardless of population.
Minnesota has had eight congressional representatives since 1960. While Minnesota has gained population since the last census, the rate of population growth has been less than in some other states. Minnesota census data was released [date here] and can be accessed at Minnesota's State Demographic Center. The U.S. Census Bureau has a wealth of information related to Congressional Apportionment.
Every member of the U.S. House of Representatives represents a specific area, or district, of their state. Each of these 435 districts has to be changed after each apportionment to reflect changes in the number of congressional seats and/or changes in population demographics in each state. This process is known as redistricting. State legislatures are responsible for creating new congressional districts.
Separate from congressional redistricting is state legislative redistricting. State legislatures are responsible for creating new state legislative districts. Currently in Minnesota, districts are redrawn after each U.S. Census. The number of districts remains the same but district borders are changed to make sure each district has approximately the same number of people in it. In Minnesota, there are 67 state senate districts; each senate district is divided into 2 house districts (134 state house districts), for a total of 201 state legislative districts.
Minnesota's nonpartisan Legislative Coordinating Commission is responsible for assisting the legislature in carrying out its redistricting responsibilities under Minnesota Statutes, section 2.91. In early 2011, the Minnesota Legislature received U.S. Census data for Minnesota and the process of creating congressional and state legislative districts began. The Minnesota Legislature's Geographic Information Services Office has posted a Redistricting Timetable for 2020 as part of their Redistricting 2010 website.
Drawing congressional and legislative district boundaries is a difficult political process. Ideally, staff hired by the four legislative caucuses (House Republican Caucus, House DFL Caucus, Senate Republican Caucus, and the Senate DFL Caucus) draft proposed redistricting plans and come to consensus on plans that meet the technical requirements of law. The plans are then presented to the legislature as a bill that must be passed by the legislature and approved and signed by the governor (2010 Redistricting Plans). New congressional and legislative districts must be determined early enough to give sufficient time to prepare for the state primary election on August 14, 2012. The statutory deadline is twenty-five weeks before the primary election. (Minnesota Statutes, section 204B.14, subdivision 1a).
Ohio's Big Redistricting Vote
Some states have redistricting commissions (NCSL information).
Role of the Courts
The redistricting plan can end up in the courts if the legislature and governor fail to agree on a plan or if someone files a lawsuit against the approved plan. Minnesota's congressional and legislative plans have often been referred to the courts. (See: History of Minnesota Redistricting; Resources on Minnesota Issues: Redistricting 1990; Resources on Minnesota Issues: Redistricting 2000.)
A lawsuit was filed Wednesday, January 12, 2011 in U.S. District Court as Audrey Britton, et al. v. Mark Ritchie, Secretary of State of Minnesota, et al. over the state's redistricting process. The suit asked for an order to intervene in the redistricting process, alleging that the current district boundaries discriminate against high-population districts and that the Legislature can't be expected to produce a better result this year.
Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea appointed five judges to a special redistricting panel on June 1, 2011. The judicial panel would hear challenges to the state's redistricting process and in the event that the MN Legislature and Governor Dayton failed to agree on a plan by February 21 of 2012, the panel would then draw the lines itself. The panel issued a scheduling order on Thursday, October 6, 2011 instructing all parties to have their proposed maps to the court by November 18, 2011. The court had a hearing on the plans on Jan. 4, 2012. At 1 p.m. on Tuesday, February 21, 2012, without a final agreement between the Legislature and Governor, the five-judge panel released the state's new redistricting maps. The 2012 maps are posted on the Legislative Coordinating Commission's Geospatial Information, Redistricting Plan L2012 website.
added section below on 10/3/17 (BH)
SCOTUS Gerrymandering Case Could Reshape American Politics
"There is only one prediction that is entirely safe about the upcoming term, and that is it will be momentous." - Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sept. 20, 2017
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) returns for what could be one of the most consequential terms of the court in recent memory. In addition to cases on immigration, religious freedom, and privacy already on the docket, it will hear oral arguments in a case about partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin, where a federal court in November 2016 struck down a legislative map for being too partisan. In Gill v. Whitford, a panel of three federal judges ruled that the Wisconsin State Assembly map adopted in 2011 violated the First and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. If the court ultimately rules against the plaintiffs, it could mean that no amount of partisan bias could make electoral districts unconstitutional. But on the flipside, if the court sides with the plaintiffs, it could ultimately lead to drastic changes of electoral maps and how state legislatures draw them.
NCSL - Redistricting and the Supreme Court: The Most Significant Cases
Once districts are established, local units of government with districts apportioned by population must also redistrict themselves. When all the districts have been determined, boundaries for election precincts are set.
Significant Books and Reports
One Peter Wattson report and one Mondale/ report should be coming - mentioned in discuss books 6/5/18.
(articles in reverse chronological order)
Kaul, Greta. "Half of Minnesota's U.S. House Races are Competitive this Year: do we have the Courts to Thank?" MinnPost, July 9, 2018.
Liptak, Adam. "Supreme Court Sidesteps Decision on Partisan Gerrymandering." The New York Times, June 18, 2018.
Ruger, Tod. "Fiercest Fight of the Midterms May be the One for Maps: Democrats hope to Wrest Back Control of the Redistricting Process from Republicans Ahead of 2020 Census." Roll Call, May 10, 2018.
Cannon, Lou. "The Rewards and Perils of Redistricting." StateNet: Capitol Journal.
"At least 18 states are looking into changes in the way they draw congressional and legislative districts." Los Angeles Times, February 25, 2018.
"Redistricting Reconsidered: Key U.S. Supreme Court Case, Pending Ballot Initiatives could Reshape Process used by States to Draw Political Lines." Stateline Midwest, January, 2018 pages 1, 6-7.
"Partisan Gerrymandering: Legislative Redistricting for Political Advantage." Supreme Court Debates, November 2017.
Greenblatt, Alan. "Will the U.S. Supreme Court Take a Stand Against Partisan Gerrymandering?" Governing, September 13, 2017.
"Redistricting Showdown: Should Partisan Gerrymandering be Eliminated?" CQ Researcher, August 25, 2017.
Sturdevant, Lori. "Attention to Redistricting is Particularly Hot in Minnesota This Year: It's All About the Driver's Seat." Star Tribune, February 24, 2017.
Zezima, Katie. Voters are Stripping Partisan Redistricting Power From Politicians in Anti-Gerrymandering Efforts. Washington Post. November 7, 2018.
Significant Internet Resources
Census 2020 - From the U.S. Census Bureau.
Census 2020: Countdown to the Count - a redistricting resource page from the Minnesota State Demographic Center. The center analyzes and distributes data from state, U.S. Census Bureau and other sources.
Elections & Redistricting - Minnesota House Research publications on the topic of Redistricting. See their 57 page "Minnesota Redistricting Process: A Historical Overview" presented to the House Committee on Redistricting January 18, 2011.
Fair District Maps - League of Women Voters: Minnesota web page with information on redistricting.
Historical Legislative and Congressional Maps - From the Minnesota Geographic Information Systems Office.
Minnesota House of Representatives Redistricting Committee 2011-2012 - the House committee Web page includes a link to a presentation by Tom Gillaspy, State Demographer: Apportionment And Redistricting In Minnesota—2010.
Redistricting - The National Conference of State Legislature's resource for information on the process, law and technology necessary for redistricting. See also their State Redistricting Commissions: State Legislative Plans page. Also the new Creation of Redistricting Commissions: background page (April 6, 2018).
Election Dates for Legislators and Governors who do Redistricting - NCSL - May 25, 2018. See also NCSL's Redistricting Commission Bills page.
Redistricting 2020 - Information from the Minnesota Legislature's Geographic Information Systems Office.
Special Redistricting Panel - The Minnesota Supreme Court granted a petition for the appointment of a special redistricting panel to hear and decide challenges to the validity of state legislative and congressional districts based on the 2010 Census. The site includes a link to this November 4, 2011 Order Stating Redistricting Principles and Requirements for Plan Submissions.
Subcommittee on Redistricting - The Legislative Coordinating Commission's Subcommittee expired January 1, 2011 and has not been re-established by the Legislative Coordinating Commission, however meeting minutes and a list of members can be found on their website.
Additional Library Resources
For newspaper articles on the topic since 2009, check our Minnesota News Archive, Redistricting/Reapportionment 73.0
For materials prior to 2009, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File:
A34 - Apportionment
For additional reports with a Minnesota focus available through the Legislative Reference Library, use this Library catalog search:
Apportionment (Minnesota); Redistricting (Minnesota).
For further information on redistricting see: