Redistricting – Minnesotans’ Next Challenge: Not Just for Insiders Anymore

The time to act is when the balls are in the air!  In Minnesota, that time is now.  For starts, the Legislature hasn’t taken action on the Shutdown Settlement yet.  Still the Settlement, if it is accepted, doesn’t really settle the Big Issues – like redistricting….All that time and energy will be re-directed to carving up the political profile of the state.  The balls are in the air – will the public and The Press be as tuned in to the redistricting process as we all have been to the Shutdown?  Or will the lines be drawn as they always have been, behind closed doors.

It’s a fact that fifty states will be redistricting so the North Star State won’t be enjoying the national spotlight.  It’s also true that re-districting is a tedious process traditionally managed by insider politicos with extensive political savvy and ferocious partisan motivation.  In recent times, technology has offered untold options for political mapmakers to tweak the numbers that shape the politics.

There’s a new system that promises to give hapless voters a chance.  The Public Mapping Project supports interactive redistricting. An individual or group – neighborhood, advocacy group, book club (if you’re that sort of book club), political subdivision or political party  —  can get set up a site to allow an individual or a number of people to draw and evaluate potential redistricting map onlines.

There’s a good intro on the project website where you can also check demos of the software;  it seems the software is available without cost at this point.  The Public Mapping Project notes that the Midwest Democracy Network will be providing public access to the software for Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  A check of the Midwest Democracy Network was inconclusive, but it’s worth staying in touch – their website lists the following Minnesota organizations as partners:  Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, League of Women Voters of Minnesota, Heartland Democracy, Common Cause and TakeAction Minnesota.

The Public Mapping Project website also offers an excellent bibliography of print and media resources, many of which are available online.  Other sources include Americans for Redistricting Reform and resources suggested by the Minnesota Legislature’s  Geographic Information Services.  The Census also manages a site specifically focused on redistricting and the 2010 Census.   The Census Bureau also manages a site specifically focused on redistricting;  Find Strength in Numbers as http://www.census.gov/rdo/pdf/StrengthInNumbers2010.pdf

Those who want to review the history of redistricting, specifically, in Minnesota, should start with the Legislative Reference Library that spots and keeps the state’s political record for the Legislature and for all Minnesotans.

On Monday, July 18, the Brookings Institution will present a Status Report on Congressional Redistricting.  A panel of experts will review the results coming in from the states on redistricting activities.  They will also discuss how the rest of the process is likely to unfold.  Panelists will focus on evidence of partisan or bipartisan gerrymandering, the outcome of transparency and public mapping initiatives such as PMP, and minority redistricting.  Follow the event on Twitter – #RedistrictB1

Though it’s a little late for this notice there is little doubt that the event will be streamed in good time.

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