MARSHALL - The geographic landscape of politics in Minnesota has officially changed, as the state's eight congressional and 201 legislative districts were reorganized Tuesday by a court-appointed panel. But in outstate Minnesota in general, the change isn't all too drastic.
"If you look at the big picture of greater Minnesota, the court panel overall maintained continuity," Southwest Minnesota State Political Science Professor David Sturrock said. "It's very much status quo for greater Minnesota."
That status quo, Sturrock said, is good news for incumbents.
"An incumbent would rather campaign in areas they're already known in, as opposed to having to build a following in new areas," Sturrock said. "If you're one of the eight (congressional) incumbents this is a good plan. Incumbents like continuity."
The last time redistricting was left up to the courts was in 2002, the year the House Republican majority widened its margin from four seats to 29, as the Senate DFL majority's margin slipped to four seats from 12.
Political maps are redrawn every 10 years to put equal populations in each congressional and legislative districts. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed redistricting bills last year but they were voted down by every DFLer and vetoed by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton because of that lack of bipartisan support.
There are some splits in congressional districts, including in Jackson and Lyon counties and some of Redwood.
"I'm disappointed they divided as many counties as they did within our region," Sturrock said. "Lyon is obviously split and Redwood County is split three ways; they did not have to do that. I'm puzzled by a number of the greater Minnesota boundaries. There must be some logic behind them, but it's not obvious what that logic is."
The two congressional districts that envelop this region are both currently represented by Democrats - Tim Walz in District 1 (Brown, Pipestone, Murray, Cottonwood counties) and Collin Peterson in District 7 (Chippewa, Lincoln, Lyon, Redwood, Renville, Lac qui Parle, Yellow Medicine). Under the current map, Walz's southern Minnesota district extends from the South Dakota border to the Wisconsin border, while Peterson's large district stretches from Lincoln, Lyon, and Redwood counties all the way up to Kittson, Roseau, and Lake of the Woods counties in far northern Minnesota.
The biggest change in this region sees Peterson's congressional district extending south to cover all of Murray and Pipestone counties and a good portion of Cottonwood County.
"There's a very slight change up north in the 7th and 8th districts, otherwise, the existing boundaries are the same, until you get south of Lyon County," Sturrock said. "What the panel said is the basic model has worked well."
Seven of the state's congressional districts did not see a major overhaul. The new 6th was left without an incumbent, but the other seven members of Congress - four Democrats and three Republicans - remained in the districts they represent.
"The only two districts that are safely DFL are the 4th and 5th, the 6th is strongly Republican; the other five districts are all competitive districts if there's still an incumbent," Sturrock said. "Those are five that could go either way at some point, particularly if an incumbent retires."
Locally, District 20, represented by Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, currently covers Lincoln, Yellow Medicine, Chippewa, and Renville counties. District 21, Republican Sen. Gary Dahms' district, covers Lyon, Redwood, Brown and northern Watonwan counties. District 22, represented by Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, hits Rock, Nobles, Jackson, Pipestone, Murray, and Cottonwood counties.
The new map changes District 21 to District 16 and puts the southern portion of Lyon County in District 22, along with Lincoln County. District 22 loses the eastern half of Jackson County and will be split along the Rock and Nobles county border and into the northwest section of Nobles.
The new District 16 will now extend north to include Yellow Medicine and Lac qui Parle counties. District 16 also loses the northern part of Watonwan County. The district will be split in Redwood County.
"I'll have a lot of new folks to meet," District 21A Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said. "Lyon County got split up and Redwood County, so that will be a change."
District 20 will become District 17 and loses Lac qui Parle and Big Stone counties. It will be split in Kandiyohi County and along its borders with Swift and northeastern Chippewa.
Dahms said he was disappointed he lost the southern half of Lyon County and some of Redwood and Watonwan, but "I certainly look forward to adding Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine," he said. "I certainly look forward to my new district. I guess I have the attitude of 'it is what it is.' I don't like losing the folks I have worked with in Lyon and Watonwan, but I certainly could've got a district that would've been much tougher on me."
The new legislative district maps pit 46 incumbents against each other and create 23 open seats.
The new House district maps pair 30 incumbents against each other and create 15 open seats. The new maps also pit 16 Senate incumbents against each other and create eight open Senate seats.
The House gets six districts with two incumbent Republicans, six with two incumbent Democrats, plus three Democrat-versus-Republican pairings.
The Senate gets four districts with two incumbent Republicans, two with two Democratic incumbents, and two Democrat-on-Republican conflicts.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.