Women candidates caught up in fallout from new MN political cards / Public Press Service

Two years ago, a record number of women were elected to serve in the Minnesota Legislative Assembly, but new political boundaries will shake up their presence in the state Capitol.

Last month, a special court created new legislative and congressional districts based on the latest census data, after lawmakers failed to agree on their own redistricting plans.

The court went for the “least change” approach among several suggested cards, which created numerous incumbent pairings, where incumbent lawmakers would have to compete against each other.

Nick Harper, director of civic engagement for the League of Women Voters of Minnesota, sees an unfortunate element in this result.

“There were a lot of elected officials who made the decision to run for another office or retire,” Harper pointed out. “That included a lot of women.”

It included Senator Melisa Lopez Franzen, DFL-Edina, the Senate Minority Leader, who was considered a rising star in her party. As the new election cycle approaches, Minnesota has ranked 12th in the country for the number of women in the Legislative Assembly.

Harper pointed out that it is still possible this fall to make up for some losses with open seats in new districts, where there are no incumbents. He also sees gains in future election cycles when others choose to retire, noting that it is important for women to help decide key political issues.

“We’ve seen a lot of policies that pay more attention to what a lot of women would like to see, or policies that have a specific impact on women,” Harper observed.

He said these issues range from paid family leave to efforts to address murdered and missing Indigenous women. The League is part of a coalition that has long called for Minnesota to adopt an independent redistricting process. Proponents say it could help avoid situations that diminish the voting power of certain populations.

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