City Responsibilities Related to Redistricting

October 18, 2021

Once redistricting is complete, cities must establish or reestablish election precincts, designate polling places, and, where applicable, confirm or redefine ward districts.

Redistricting takes place after each federal decennial census. After the state completes its redistricting process, there are a few actions cities are required to take, as explained below.

Congressional and legislative requirements

Redistricting is the process by which new congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn. Minnesota currently has eight congressional districts and 201 state legislative districts (67 Senate districts and 134 House districts).

There are several constitutional and statutory requirements for congressional and legislative districts, including:

  • Equal population.
  • Convenient, contiguous territory.
  • Single-member Senate districts with two House districts within each Senate district.

The state Legislature has primary responsibility for redistricting, which generally begins with the submission and approval of a redistricting plan. However, in recent decades the Legislature has not been able to agree on a plan, and the task of redistricting has been completed by the Special Redistricting Panel, a panel of district court judges appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The Legislature’s policy to complete redistricting by Feb. 15, 2022, which is 25 weeks before the state primary election. A court-appointed redistricting panel has begun to convene to ensure redistricting is completed by the deadline in case the Legislature is unable to complete redistricting.

City requirements

Once congressional and legislative redistricting is complete, cities have the following responsibilities:

1.      Precinct establishment or reestablishment

Every city is required to establish or reestablish its election precincts, even if there is no change. At a minimum, each city is required to have at least once precinct; additional precincts are necessary if the city is divided by a county, county commissioner, legislative district, or congressional district. One precinct cannot be split between more than one county, congressional district, legislative district, or city ward. Precincts are not tied to population size, but precincts with over 1,500 voters may be difficult to manage. The secretary of state recommends that precinct boundaries follow census block boundaries.

If there are any changes in precinct boundaries, the city clerk must post a notice of the changes in the office of the city clerk or county auditor for 56 days before changes take effect. In addition, the city clerk must immediately notify the county auditor and secretary of state of precinct boundary changes. The city clerk must also file a corrected map of precinct boundaries with the secretary of state within 30 days of any changes.

The deadline to establish or reestablish precincts is 60 days after the redistricting is complete or March 29, 2022, whichever comes earlier. If redistricting is completed after March 29, 2022, cities have 28 days following redistricting to establish or reestablish precincts.

2.      Polling place designation

The state requires governing bodies that establish or reestablish precincts to also designate polling places for those districts. Typically, precinct establishment and polling place designation will happen at the same time through a common resolution. If not, governing bodies have 30 days from the establishment of precincts, or March 29, 2022, whichever comes earlier, to designate polling places.

If a polling place location changes, the city clerk must notify the county auditor as well as all affected households by a first class, non-forwardable mailing at least 25 days before the next election. Typically this is accomplished by mailing postal verification cards to affected households and voters.

Every precinct must have a designated polling place. This includes mail ballot cities, where it is usually city hall or the clerk’s office. Combined polling places or polling places outside of precinct boundaries are allowed in certain circumstances. All polling places are subject to federal and state laws regarding location and accessibility.

3.      Ward redistricting

Approximately 70 cities elect council members by ward. Cites using the ward system must either confirm or redefine ward districts after each decennial census. Home rule charter cities may have additional redistricting processes in their charters. Ward populations must be as equal as practicable, and wards must be bounded by precinct lines and composed of compact, contiguous territory. Precincts cannot be located in more than one ward. Changes in ward boundaries do not disqualify council members from serving the remainder of their terms. An ordinance establishing new ward boundaries becomes effective on Aug. 9, 2022, the date of the state primary election.

Cities cannot redistrict wards until legislative redistricting is complete. Cities have 60 days from legislative redistricting or March 29, 2022, whichever comes first, to complete ward redistricting. If legislative redistricting takes places after March 29, 2022, cities have 28 days from the date of legislative redistricting to complete ward redistricting. If cities do not redistrict wards by those deadlines, mayors and elected officials are prohibited from receiving compensation until the process is completed.

Redistricting information and census data

The Secretary of State’s 2021 Redistricting Guide has detailed information on the redistricting process for cities, including template documents, checklists, and calendars.

Once redistricting is complete, county auditors are responsible for providing cities with relevant portions of the legislative redistricting plan.

Census block maps and population data are important for precinct boundaries and calculation of ward populations. They can be found at the following:

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