ST. PAUL, Minnesota -- A special court panel is hosting public hearings this month, asking Minnesotans what new political maps should look like, and racial-justice advocates worry lack of engagement might not compel enough BIPOC residents to testify.
Five judges, appointed by the state Supreme Court, are overseeing a redistricting process separate from what the politically divided Legislature is doing. If lawmakers can't agree on maps, the court's plans would get the nod.
Monica Maria Hurtado, community organizer at Voices For Racial Justice, said she was puzzled by the low attendance at a Minneapolis hearing this week. She wonders if the importance of redistricting is not conveyed to communities of color as much as it should be.
"[For] the community; regular citizens in this type of process, it's still not as friendly, is not as participatory as I wish it could be, and it should be," Hurtado contended.
She also noted some people who signed up to testify but did not show might have encountered scheduling conflicts. She emphasized the good news is the panel will still accept written testimony until Oct. 29. The hearings, which can also be viewed online, are scheduled to run through the Oct. 26.
The re-drawing of legislative and congressional boundaries happens each decade after a formal census count to ensure equal representation. Hurtado and fellow advocates stressed this time around, they want communities of interest to be a key principal in any new map.
"Consider the interests of communities of color, and not to divide communities of color who are trying to develop businesses, who are trying to develop areas," Hurtado urged.
Voices For Racial Justice is part of a coalition that recently filed a court petition, asking for more consideration of BIPOC communities in redistricting.
Minnesota's deadline for enacting new political maps is Feb. 15. In recent decades, the courts often have intervened due to legislative stalemates.
Source: Minnesota News Connection