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Beneath the Budget Battle, Redistricting Efforts Bubble Up

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A Who's Who of Minnesota politics from across the political spectrum continue to speak as one voice in an effort to bring change to the process by which the State draws its congressional and legislative districts.

Back in January 2008, former Vice President and DFL Senator Walter Mondale, former Republican Governors Arne Carlson and Al Quie, and former DFL Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe were among several witnesses who testified on redistricting before the Minnesota Senate Committee on State and Local Government Operations and Oversight.

Mondale and Carlson are co-chairs of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance's Minnesota Redistricting Project, which supports the establishment of an independent commission of non-partisan retired judges to draw new districts, instead of the partisan process that is in place now.

Redistricting has taken on particular importance in light of population shifts that put at great risk one of Minnesota's congressional seats in 2012.

This week, Mondale, Carlson, Quie, and Moe returned to the spotlight by writing a letter to DFL Senator Ann Rest, Chair of the Committee on State and Local Government Operations and Oversight, endorsing a redistricting bill authored by DFL Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller.

The bill, S.F. 182, would create an independent, nonpartisan, and transparent system for drawing the boundaries of legislative districts. In their letter, Minnesota's prominent former officeholders wrote they, "Seek to fix a broken system and restore fairness and accountability of the redistricting process." They added:

"It is unfortunate, but undeniable that our existing redistricting process fosters an environment of mistrust, jealousy, and hunger for power, thus, distracting elected officials from the issues that their constituents truly care about."

The Pogemiller bill would empower the majority and minority leaders in the Senate and House with selecting a retired appellate or district court judge to form the commission, with those four judges selecting a fifth judge. All of the judges must never have previously served in political office. The bill was voted out of Rest's committee this week on a voice vote.

Although talk of budget battles has created headlines at the Capitol this session, bi-partisan support for redistricting seems to be gaining steam and media attention; last week, the Star Tribune ran an editorial supporting the core principles comprising Pogemiller's legislation.

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