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Membership of the Legislature

The number of legislators and the arrangement of legislative districts in the state are prescribed by law, consistent with certain constitutional requirements. The state constitution expresses three requirements with which the law on legislative districts must comply.

  • Representation in both houses must be apportioned equally throughout the state in proportion to population.
  • Senators must be chosen by single districts of convenient contiguous territory numbered in regular series.
  • No representative district may be divided in the formation of a senate district.

These three constitutional requirements affect the number of legislators and legislative districts in two ways. First, only one senator may be elected from each senate district. Second, the number of representative districts must be equal to, or a multiple of, the number of senate districts (because each representative district must be contained within a single senate district, and both types of district must be apportioned according to population). Minn. const., art. IV, secs. 2, 3

Current law implementing these constitutional provisions partitions the state into 67 senate districts, each of which elects one senator. (This has been the size of the Senate for about 90 years.) Each of the 67 senate districts is subdivided into two house districts, making a total of 134 districts, each of which elects one representative. (This has been the size of the House for about 40 years; before that, for about 50 years, there were 131 house districts.)

The result of this arrangement of districts is that the House is precisely twice the size of the Senate; one third of the 201 members of the legislature are senators, and two-thirds are representatives. Each senator currently represents about 80,000 persons, and each representative about half that number.

The federal constitution, as interpreted by the courts since the 1960s, requires that legislative districts be reapportioned (their boundaries redrawn) after each decennial federal census, to reflect changes in population distribution during the preceding decade. This must be accomplished in time for the first state general election after each census. If the legislature and governor do not accomplish this by statutory law, the courts intervene to draw new legislative district lines.

Minn. Stat., sec. 2.021, 2.031, subd. 1; (Legislative districts are established by a 2012 court decision establishing new districts based on the 2010 census)

July 2013