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Last reviewed October 2018

Minnesota Issues Resource Guides
Redistricting 1990

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.

Legislative History   Court Cases   Books and Reports    Internet Resources    Additional Library Resources

"At its first session after each enumeration of the inhabitants of this state made by the authority of the United States, the legislature shall have the power to prescribe the bounds of congressional and legislative districts. The representation in both houses shall be apportioned equally throughout the different sections of the state in proportion to the population thereof." - Excerpts from the Constitution of the State of Minnesota, article IV.

The 1990 U.S. Census recorded a Minnesota population of 4,375,099 people, a 7.3% increase from the 1980 census. As required by the state constitution, the 1991 Minnesota Legislature began the process of creating new congressional and legislative districts that equally apportioned the state's population.

Minnesota's Legislature is made up of 134 House and 67 Senate seats. Based on the 1990 Census, the population of each Minnesota state Senate district was to be approximately 65,300 people with each state House district half that size - approximately 32,650 people. Redistricting is an intensely political endeavor and the redistricting battle of the early 1990s was indeed complex. Moving back and forth between the legislature and courts, the process spanned several years; a new redistricting plan was finally approved by the 1994 legislature. The following is a brief chronology of events.


The redistricting battle began in January 1991 when a suit was filed in Hennepin County requesting the courts to take over redistricting from the Legislature (Cotlow v. Growe, No. C8-91-985). In June, the Minnesota Supreme Court appointed a three-judge state panel, also known as the Special Redistricting Panel, to hear this suit.

In March, a different suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis challenging any redistricting plan on similar grounds as well as the grounds that it would discriminate against minorities (Emison v. Growe, 782 F.Supp. 427). A three-judge federal panel was selected in April to hear this suit.

On May 13, the Legislature adopted two concurrent resolutions, which set standards for the redistricting process. Then, on May 18, the Legislature approved a DFL-sponsored legislative plan (Laws of Minnesota 1991, chapter 246). This plan was scheduled to become law on August 1, 1991. Gov. Arne Carlson attempted to veto the bill. In August, the veto was declared invalid as he missed the constitutional deadline to veto the bill and so it became law. (State Senate v. Carlson, No. C3-91-7547, Aug. 2, 1991). Gov. Carlson decided not to appeal the veto decision.

Also in August, plaintiffs aligned with the Independent-Republican party filed suit in federal court challenging the redistricting legislation (Benson v. Growe, No. 4-91-603). This suit was consolidated with the suit which had been filed in March (Emison v. Growe, 782 F.Supp. 427).

Meanwhile, the state's Special Redistricting Panel ruled in October that the redistricting plan in Laws of Minnesota 1991, chapter 246 was unconstitutional and full of errors. The state court panel announced it would draw up a new plan based on the DFL sponsored plan (Emison v. Growe, 782 F. Supp. 427, Order). In November, the state court panel ruled that its proposed redistricting plan would become effective January 21, 1992, unless Gov. Carlson and the Legislature could agree on a plan.

In December, federal judges, in a 2-1 decision, ordered the state panel to halt all work on redistricting since this would inhibit lawmakers from developing their own plan (Emison v. Growe, no. 4-91-202, D. Minn. Dec. 5, 1991). The state court issued the redistricting order, subject to the federal court's injunction (Cotlow v. Growe, No. C8-91-985, Minn. Spec. Redis. Panel, Dec. 9, 1991).

The redistricting debate was then sent to the U.S. Supreme Court. DFL interests filed an appeal of federal injunction and asked for an expedited decision before January 6, 1992 (Cotlow v. Emison, 502 U.S. 1022).


A special legislative session was called in January 1992. The Senate and House approved plans for congressional districts and corrected mistakes in the legislative redistricting map. However, these plans were vetoed by Gov. Carlson on January 10 (veto letter for Laws of Minnesota 1992, chapter 357; veto letter for Laws of Minnesota 1992, chapter 358). To see the original legislation, see Legislative Plan: Laws 1991, chapter 246 as amended by S.F. no. 1596/H.F. no. 1726. Also on January 10, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to vacate the federal court injunction on the state court panel plan (Cotlow v. Emison, 502 U.S. 1022, Jan. 10, 1992). This allowed the state court plan to become effective.

In February 1992, the U.S. district court panel developed a plan and ruled that the state court plan was unlawful because it violated minority voting interests, especially in Minneapolis (Emison v. Growe, 782 F.Supp. 427). The following month, Secretary of State Joan Growe and DFL leaders appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the federal court plan from being implemented (Growe v. Emison, No. 91-1420). Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun ruled in favor of the state court plan for legislative districts and for the federal court plan for the congressional district lines (Growe v. Emison, No. 91-1420, Mar. 11, 1992).

The redistricting process was completed, at least until after the 1992 elections (Cotlow v. Growe, C8-91-985, Final Order, Minn. Spec. Redis. Panel, April 15, 1992). The state court plan, similar to the DFL plan, was used in the November elections and the federal court plan was used for congressional districts.


On February 23, 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court made a final ruling on the redistricting plan for Minnesota (Growe v. Emison, 507 U.S. 25). The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal court overstepped their authority and should have deferred to the Legislature and state court. This ruling allowed the state's legislative district plan to stand. The U.S. Congressional district plan, drawn up by the panel of federal judges, was replaced by the plan that had been drawn up by the three state judges. This changed the boundaries substantially for the Third and Sixth Congressional Districts, but did not invalidate any of the 1992 election results.


In 1994, the Minnesota Legislature formally enacted the state court panel's legislative redistricting plan in Laws of Minnesota 1994, chapter 612.


In Laws of Minnesota 1997, chapter 44, portions of Moorhead Township annexed by City of Dilworth moved from district 9A to district 9B.

Legislative History

Related Court Cases

Minnesota Redistricting Cases: the 1990's -- This document summarizes many of the cases listed below. Links are provided when available.

Significant Books and Reports

1992 Congressional Districts. St. Paul: Legislative Coordinating Commission, Subcommittee on Redistricting, 1992. (JK2493.N56 1992)

1992 Legislative Districts. St. Paul: Legislative Coordinating Commission, Subcommittee on Redistricting, 1992. (JK6168.N56 1992)

1994 Congressional Districts. St. Paul: Legislative Coordinating Commission, Subcommittee on Geographic Information Systems, 1993. (JK2493 .N56 1993)

1994 Legislative Districts. St. Paul: Legislative Coordinating Commission, Subcommittee on Geographic Information Systems, 1994. (JK6168 .N57 1994)

Final Order. [Minn.]: State of Minnesota, Special Redistricting Panel, [1992]. (JK2493 .F56 1992)

Gehring, Matt. Minnesota Redistricting Process: A Historical Overview. St. Paul: Research Department, Minnesota House of Representatives, 2011. (JK6168 G44 2011)

Legislative Plan: Laws 1991, Chapter 246 as amended by S.F. no. 1596/H.F. no. 1726. [Minn.? : s.n., 1992]. (JK6168 .L44 1992)

Legislative Redistricting [Minn. : s.n., 1992?]. (JK6168 .L45 1992)

MN Legislative District Reports. St. Paul: Legislative Coordinating Commission, Subcommittee on Geographic Information Systems, 1994. (JK6168 .M5 1994)

Order and Plans of Redistricting: U.S. District Court, Civ. 4-91-202, 19 February, 1992. St. Paul: U.S. District Court, 1992. (KFM5820.85.A6 A52 1992)

Redistricting Case Summaries From the '90s. Denver: National Conference of State Legislatures, 1998. (JK1341 .R44 1998)

Wattson, Peter. 1990s Supreme Court Redistricting Decisions. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Senate Counsel and Research, 2002. (KF4905.Z9 W382 2002)

Wattson, Peter. Districting Principles in Minnesota Courts. St. Paul: Peter S. Wattson, 2018. (JK6168 .W388 2018)

Wattson, Peter. Enacting a Redistricting Plan. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Senate Counsel and Research, 2001. (KF4905 W38 2001)

Wattson, Peter. History of Minnesota Redistricting. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Senate Counsel and Research, 2010. (JK6168 .W39 2010)

Wattson, Peter. How to Draw Redistricting Plans That Will Stand Up in Court. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Senate Counsel and Research, 2010. (JK1341 .W382 2010)

Wattson, Peter. Outline of Redistricting Litigation. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Senate Counsel and Research, 1997. (JK1341.W384 1997)

Significant Internet Resources

Redistricting Issues Area -- An excellent resource for obtaining up-to-date information, by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Additional Library Resources

For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File: A34 (Apportionment), A34.4 (Apportionment - Legislative MN)

For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use these Library catalog searches:
Apportionment (Minnesota); Redistricting (Minnesota).

For further information on redistricting see: