Presentation to House Redistricting Committee

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  • Introduction Thank you for inviting me to speak today Madam Chair, Members of the Committee. My name is Mike Dean and I am the executive director of Common Cause Minnesota, a non-partisan government watchdog group. It is fitting that the committee is holding this hearing during sunshine week. For those of you not familiar with sunshine week, it is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government. It is important that we spend a little time focusing on those principles of openness and transparency, especially when we talk about the redistricting process.   Openness and transparency in government is critical to the strength of our representative democracy. Without those principles, government is more prone to corruption and undue influences because of the lack of oversight. As U.S. Supreme Court Louis Justice Brandeis said, referring to the benefits of openness and transparency in government, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” That is why this issue tends to be supported on both sides of the aisle. But more importantly, openness and transparency are key to ensuring accountability. Whether that is accountability in the free market or with free governments. Having the knowledge to make informed decisions is the heart of our society, but we can’t take it for granted.
  • That is why Common Cause, the League of Women Votes, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, and TakeAction Minnesota created the Draw the line Coalition. The coalition is focused on improving the redistricting process through the following principles:
  • There appears to be common agreement within this committee of fairness, transparency and citizen input. Here are two quotes from Rep Anderson and Rep Murphy publically stating their support for these principles. The challenge is moving beyond statements and developing a redistricting process that is fair, open, and has meaningful citizen input.
  • Before we discuss that, it is important to acknowledge the challenges to the current redistricting process. First, the process has largely been a failure. In the last 40 years, the legislature and governor have been unable to agree on a new map. However, the 1990 map did make it through because of the failed veto by Governor Carlson. Over the last 40 years, the redistricting process has mainly happened in the courts. This has protected the state from the large-scale gerrymandering that we have too often seen in other states. There has been a lack of transparency and citizen input in the process. Mainly because it is not in the nature of the court to do that. There are some inherent problems in the redistricting process that the leaders of both of your political parties have spoken out about.
  • You know, it's one thing to draw lines that ensure the adequate representation of minority populations, it's another to draw them for purely partisan advantage. Both parties have been responsible for doing this. Both parties should be responsible for ending it. This is something that I find myself with strange bedfellows. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as you will recall, proposed this in California and it was fought vigorously by Democrats. In Ohio, it was fought vigorously by Republicans. But the fact of the matter is that we now have a system where, too often, our representatives are selecting their voters, as opposed to the voters selecting the representatives. That is a situation that I think the American people should not accept.
  • It is these problems that have contributed to the public distrust over the redistricting process. A paper in the Election Law Journal in November of 2010 looked in to the public attitudes around redistricting. They analyzed a variety of public opinion polls and concluded that the public has a low level of knowledge and information about the redistricting process. Their research also found that the public is less likely to view the redistricting process as fair, if the final lines are drawn by a partisan body. These are huge challenges that the committee will face in carrying out the redistricting process. How will you build trust in a process that public believes is flawed? Especially when voters in Minneapolis, California, and Florida all supported referendums that limit the ability of partisan actors to draw the new lines. Source: Partisanship, Public Opinion, and Redistricting, Election Law Journal, November 4, 2010
  • The final challenge that you face is the timeline. You have less than ten weeks until the end of the 2011 session to draw the lines. Considering where things currently stand, it will be extremely difficult to draw the district in a fair, transparent manner that allows for meaningful citizen input.
  • Contrary to statements made last week, the Minnesota Constitution is actually quite vague on the redistricting process and does not guarantee fairness, transparency or citizen input in the process. Over the years, the courts and the legislature have identified additional criteria that you must follow when drawing the lines.
  • With this level of vagueness, it is critical that the redistricting committee better define that process. There are three areas that the committee should focus on: 1. Fairness 2. Transparency 3. Citizen Input
  • Draw the Line Minnesota is a coalition that seeks to reform and improve the redistricting process in Minnesota.
  • Draw the Line Minnesota is a coalition that seeks to reform and improve the redistricting process in Minnesota.
  • Presentation to House Redistricting Committee

    1. 1. Defining the Redistricting Process Bringing Fairness, Transparency and Citizen Input to the Process Mike Dean Common Cause Minnesota
    2. 2. Draw the Line Minnesota Coalition <ul><li>The redistricting process should be  independent and nonpartisan. </li></ul><ul><li>The redistricting process should be  transparent  to the public. </li></ul><ul><li>The redistricting body should provide data, tools, and opportunities for the public to have  direct input into the specific plans  under consideration. </li></ul><ul><li>The redistricting process must be  reflective of the diversity  of the state, especially racial and ethnic diversity. </li></ul><ul><li>Redistricting plan should preserve  communities of interest.  </li></ul>
    3. 3. Agreement on Principles <ul><li>“ We are committed to a fair, open, and honest redistricting process that reflects the demographic changes across Minnesota over the past 10 years while allowing communities of interest the best opportunity to be represented,” </li></ul><ul><li>Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) 3/8/11 </li></ul><ul><li>“ Representative Anderson and I agree that the Legislature can produce a fair, representative plan and map for the entire state. We are gathering information and public input, and reaching out to communities of interest across the state.”  </li></ul><ul><li>Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL – Hermantown) 3/8/11 </li></ul>
    4. 4. Key Principles <ul><li>Fairness </li></ul><ul><li>Transparency </li></ul><ul><li>Citizen Input </li></ul>
    5. 5. Challenges with the Current Process <ul><li>The process has not worked for the last 40 years. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Legislature and governor have been unable to agree on a map </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Courts lack the transparency and desire for public input that is necessary </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Public distrust over the current process. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Largely uninformed. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Less likely to view the redistricting process as fair if they live in a state that has the final districts drawn by a partisan group. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Timeline </li></ul>
    6. 6. Inherent Problems <ul><li>“ Our government would be more productive – and our politics more civilized – if congressional districts were drawn by panels of nonpartisan elders instead of partisan state legislatures.  This would make for more competitive general elections and a less polarized Congress.  Making the change would require politicians to give up some of their power, never an easy task.” </li></ul><ul><li>Former President George W. Bush </li></ul><ul><li> Decision Points, 2010 </li></ul>
    7. 7. Inherent Problems <ul><li>“ Too often, our representatives are selecting their voters, as opposed to the voters selecting the representatives. That is a situation that I think the American people should not accept.&quot;  </li></ul><ul><li>President Barack Obama </li></ul><ul><li>Brookings and the American Enterprise Institution </li></ul><ul><li>Launch Joint Election Reform Project 2/8/06 </li></ul>
    8. 8. Public Perception of Redistricting <ul><li>Largely unaware of redistricting process </li></ul><ul><li>Do not think the process is fair </li></ul><ul><li>Voters in Minneapolis, California and Florida supported reform in 2010 </li></ul>
    9. 9. The Process <ul><li>Minnesota Constitution is vague on process </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sec. 3. Census enumeration apportionment; congressional and legislative district boundaries; senate districts. 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. Senators shall be chosen by single districts of convenient contiguous territory. No representative district shall be divided in the formation of a senate district. The senate districts shall be numbered in a regular series.  </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. The Process <ul><li>Courts have provided additional criteria </li></ul><ul><ul><li>• Population of a district may not deviate more than 2% from ideal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>• Compactness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>• Contiguity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>• Follow county, city and town boundaries when practicable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>• Preserve communities of interest when practicable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>• Nest Senate and House district </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Define the Process <ul><li>Fairness </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Add criteria that will require </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Incumbent neutrality </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Political Fairness </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Competition </li></ul></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Define the Process <ul><li>Transparency </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Adopt and define principles at the beginning of the process. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conduct redistricting business only in public session; all comments and data are “on the record” and publically available. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide 14 days notice before any public forums are held. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ban on pertinent ex parte communications, other than between legislators and their staff. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop and maintain a public website that will allow members of the public to monitor and comment on the redistricting committee’s work. This website shall be fully functional and accessible by members of the general public. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The website shall make available all demographic, political data, and other data considered by the redistricting commission. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The website shall make available all comments received by the committee. </li></ul></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Define the Process <ul><li>Transparency </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Release a preliminary plan (with all data and a map) for public review and comment during a two week period. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Produce a public report when the preliminary and final maps are complete, justifying the adopted plan and explaining specifically how the plan, and each district within such a plan, serves the public interest. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide public notice if you intend to adjust the census numbers and state the reason why. </li></ul></ul>
    14. 14. Define the Process <ul><li>Citizen Input </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitate public comments and public submission of redistricting proposals through regular testimony, public meetings, and the internet. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hold at least three public meetings prior to the release of the preliminary plan (with all data and a map), and at least three of the public meetings after the release of the preliminary plan (with all data and a map). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hold at least one public meeting in each of the current congressional districts in the state. </li></ul></ul>
    15. 15. Steps to Take <ul><li>Step 1: Set Rules for the Process </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Create a timeline with target dates </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Step 2: Agree on criteria in priority order </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Define criteria </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hold a public meeting on criteria </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Step 3: Create Public Engagement Hearings and Website </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Website will accept public testimony and map submissions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Step 4: Plans will be developed in Open Meeting </li></ul><ul><li>Step 5: Release a DRAFT plan for a two week public review </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Hold at least three public hearings on proposed map </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. Any Questions?
    17. 17. Sally Fineday,  Native Vote Alliance of Minnesota   Monica Meyer, OutFront Minnesota   Adam Faitek, CHANCE   Jeff Narabrook, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits   Laura Fredrick Wang, LWV MN

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