Mac faculty and staff help rethink legislative lines


Minnesota is redrawing its congressional district lines, and Macalester Professor Karen Saxe and MAX Center counselor Sedric McClure might have a hand on the pen. Saxe and McClure are two of 15 volunteers for Draw the Line Minnesota, the state’s redistricting commission that was chosen by Common Cause Minnesota, the League of Women Voters Minnesota, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and TakeAction Minnesota. The group is funded by the Joyce Foundation. Governor Mark Dayton vetoed the Minnesota Congress Republicans’ redistricting plan earlier this year, leaving the floor open for new suggestions. A Draw the Line plan will be up against the Democratic, Republican and possibly several other group proposals for a Minnesota congressional map. A five-member judicial panel will decide which plan to adopt by February 2012 if no agreement is established between the governor and the legislature—something that hasn’t happened for 50 years, Saxe said. Draw the Line is non-partisan, but Saxe said volunteers’ opinions emerged in decisions such as one which would shrink Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) district, which grew by over 96,000 since the last redistricting (Minnesota has eight congressional districts with 662,991 members in each). The commission’s ultimate goal was to increase citizen involvement in the political process, which was how McClure got involved. “Many of us know the consequences of politics, but what about the process?” he said. Draw the Line’s redistricting differs from the former map in two major ways. First, Native American reservations are kept in the same district. Second, the new plans adhere to city and county lines rather than drawing through them. These efforts “keep communities intact,” McClure said, and take into account where people go to “school, shop, worship, and work” together without manipulating lines to parties or gerrymandering. The commission was highly concerned with citizen input, McClure said, and wanted to ensure minority representation in each district and that those living outside urban areas would still have influence in elections. MinnPost reported Draw the Line’s motto as “Voters should pick their politicians, not the other way around.” Any redistricting plan chosen will affect the 2012 national congressional elections and will not play a role in the upcoming St. Paul elections on November 8th.