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New district lines: How do new political boundaries affect Becker County residents?

With their Feb. 15 filing, the Minnesota Judicial Special Redistricting Panel has redrawn the congressional and legislative boundaries for the next 10 years using data compiled during the 2020 U.S. Census. In the new maps, Becker County will be split into three legislative districts, instead of its current two, and also split into two different congressional districts, losing its northern half, the White Earth Reservation, to congressional district eight.

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A zoomed in portion of the new 2022 Minnesota Legislative District map released by the Minnesota Judicial Special Redistricting Panel on Feb. 15, 2022.
(screenshot - Detroit Lakes Tribune)

The Minnesota Judicial Special Redistricting Panel has redrawn Minnesota's congressional and legislative boundaries.

According to the new maps, filed Feb. 15, Becker County residents will be split into three state senate districts instead of the current two.

The eastern portion of the county will now be represented by state Senate District 5, which will also include portions of Todd, Wadena, Hubbard and Morrison Counties. The western section of the county will continue to be represented by District 4, but it will grow from a few select townships, and the city of Detroit Lakes, to most of the southwestern, non-White Earth Reservation area of the county. The White Earth Reservation will continue to be represented by Senate District 2, which stretches all the way to the Canadian border, but will also be pulled into the Eighth Congressional District, that will now stretch from the northern boundaries of the Twin Cities to Lake of the Woods County and includes the Iron Range.

2022MNlegMap.png
A zoomed in portion of the new 2022 Minnesota Legislative District map released by the Minnesota Judicial Special Redistricting Panel on Feb. 15, 2022.
(screenshot - Detroit Lakes Tribune)
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Current Minnesota legislative district map, 2012.
(screenshot / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, represents Senate District 2 in the current legislative session, but is running in the Senate District 5 race this November since the boundaries changed. He said he's excited to meet voters in his new district and predicts a busy summer of campaigning for all current, and prospective office holders.

Paul Utke.
Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids
(submitted / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

"We all knew things were changing," said Utke. "I like what I see in the new district and I liked the district I had, but with change comes opportunity, and I'm gonna have to meet more people, more friends so to speak."

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He's excited to head to the party nominating conventions as the election season progresses, because he believes its a great way to meet with real grassroots supporters and activists.

"After that, when the session winds down, we roll into parades and fairs, and we get to rub shoulders and actually talk with people," said Utke.

In a filing with the Minnesota courts, the state judicial panel stated, "The panel did not draw the legislative districts with the purpose of protecting, promoting, or defeating any incumbent, candidate, or political party. Nor did we draw districts based on the residence of incumbent officeholders or past election results."

The panel continued: "We are aware that the changes to district lines have consequences for incumbent legislators — placing some outside the districts they currently represent, and pairing some with incumbent legislators of their own or an opposing party. But election districts do not exist for the benefit of any particular legislator or political party. Rather, they exist for the people to select their representatives."

With the new boundaries for state Senate District 2, Alan Roy, current secretary-treasurer of the White Earth Nation, announced his candidacy in the DFL primary for the seat. Roy was defeated by Sen. Utke for the same seat in 2020, however, this year, Roy will be running against state Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston.

Alan Roy.jpeg
Alan Roy
(submitted / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

"We're really focused in on the economy up here in the north and just taking care of everyone who lives here and calls this place home," said Roy. "I'm going to be out on the campaign trail listening to voters, talking to folks, and figuring out what are the needs of the district and what is being said on the ground."

Roy said he considers himself a true moderate and believes he can break through to conservative voters by focusing on the issues that can bring people together instead of dividing them.

"I'm focused on the needs of the district," said Roy. "And sometimes those needs are going to be different than those coming out of St. Paul."

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Roy is an Army veteran who served on active duty from 2007 to 2011, and has since continued his service as an Army Reservist for the last 11 years.

The White Earth Reservation will be represented by state Senate District 2, but will also flip from the Seventh Congressional District to the Eighth District, which will now include all of the northern Minnesota's indigenous areas into one congressional district.

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A zoomed in portion of the new 2022 Minnesota Congressional District map released by the Minnesota Judicial Special Redistricting Panel on Feb. 15, 2022.
(screenshot - Detroit Lakes Tribune)
2012MNCongMap.png
A zoomed in portion of the old 2012 Minnesota Congressional District map released by the Minnesota Judicial Special Redistricting Panel on Feb. 15, 2022.
(screenshot - Detroit Lakes Tribune)

The judicial panel stated, "This change respects the sovereignty of the American Indian tribes and the request of tribal leaders and Minnesotans across the state to afford those tribes an opportunity to join their voices. In the end, application of neutral redistricting principles results in new congressional districts that change as needed to equalize population but respect the core of existing communities."

The new State Senate District 4, which will include most of western Becker County, is currently represented by Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Audubon, who hasn't announced if he will seek reelection for the seat. Eken is serving in his third term as state senator after being elected to the seat in 2012.

Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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