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Local League of Women Voters plans to fight gerrymandering

Before the powers that be redraw the lines, a local League of Women Voters Minnesota (LWVM) group is gearing up to have a say in the redistricting process.

During an information-packed meeting in November, the League of Women Voters Woodbury, Cottage Grove explored how they and others can get involved in the redistricting process when congressional and state government boundaries are redrawn in Minnesota.

The group also plans to hold additional meetings and seminars with lawmakers and the Minnesota Secretary of State in the coming months, with the goal of arming themselves with enough information to watchdog and engage in the process.

Every 10 years, legislative and congressional boundaries are redrawn to correspond to U.S. census data.

The process of redrawing the lines has recently come under scrutiny and legal challenge.

In November, a U.S. District Court decision found Wisconsin's redrawing of districts — approved by the state's Republican-led legislature — had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered in a 2-1 decision.

LWVM Woodbury, Cottage Grove interim president Jean Rozinka said she feels the consequences of not being involved in the redistricting has led to a number of issues including less competitive races and gerrymandering — the process of strategically manipulating electoral boundaries in a way that favors a political party.

According to information from Common Cause Minnesota, nonpartisan citizen's lobby, only about a half-dozen local races were competitive in the most recent election.

Rozinka also speculated less competitive races and the effects of gerrymandering has also led to more polarized candidates and elected officials that tend to carry more extreme viewpoints.

"It's on the extremes that you have people who are willing to shut down government because they aren't getting their way," she said. "They don't seem to have an interest in working collaboratively to solve problems."

Some who attended last month's LMV meeting voiced criticisms of how the state Senate lines were drawn around Afton. The city is in Senate District 54, which also includes cities like St. Paul Park and Newport.

Common Cause Executive Director Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera said in cases like Afton, certain communities are placed into districts that are at risk of losing a sense of belonging.

"One of the consequences is a lack of community and a lack of feeling of community," she said. "When there's no sense of community, you engage others in a totally different way than you would if you felt that you belonged in that community."

Those interested in learning more about the redistricting process or joining the organization can email Rozinka at

lwvwcg@lwvmn.org.

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