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What you need to know about the new Minnesota state flag

There are a lot of questions surrounding the new Minnesota state flag, we try to answer them.
There are a lot of questions surrounding the new Minnesota state flag, we try to answer them. 02:40

MINNEAPOLIS — The state panel tasked with choosing a new Minnesota flag and seal picked the design finalists this week from a pool of 2,600 submissions.

The 13-member State Emblems Redesign Commission narrowed the list of options after many meetings this fall and their first in-person discussion to pick the top six designs for the flag and top five for the seal.

Minnesotans have until noon Friday to submit comment on each of the designs here. The commission is also considering a meeting allowing for public testimony sometime in December, but that is still up in the air.

Why is Minnesota changing its flag?

For years, there's been discussion about changing the flag.

Some say it needed a facelift because it looks like too many other states' flags that also have a blue background and the seal on them, so Minnesota's isn't memorable. It also violates the tenets of "good flag design" — simple with meaningful symbols.

RELATED: More loons, color variety and designs wanted for final state flag designs

Others have issues with the imagery on the seal on the flag, which depicts a settler plowing the land as a Native American rides off on horseback into the distance.

The current flag, which is the seal on a blue background, dates back to 1957 and the seal was adopted in 1861.

The legislature this year passed a law establishing the commission to oversee the revamping of both symbols.  

Why are there separate seal and flag designs being selected? 

The law instructs the commission to choose two separate designs because flag experts recommend keeping seals off state flags. A seal is intended for official government documents.

Supporters of changing the flag note that if a seal is on a flag flying high above a building, it can be hard to recognize the imagery.

For both the flag and the seal, new designs "must accurately and respectfully reflect Minnesota's shared history, resources, and diverse cultural communities," but "symbols, emblems, or likenesses that represent only a single community or person, regardless of whether real or stylized, may not be included in a design," according to state law.

Why are there no loons included on flag finalists?

Many Minnesotans submitted designs that included a loon, the state bird. During the commission meeting Tuesday, members had a robust discussion about what symbols were the most meaningful and widely associated with Minnesota.

The final six choices reflect what stood out the most: a star for "L'Etoile du Nord," Minnesota's motto as the "Star of the North."

All six have a variety of stars and include some shade of blue to represent the state's lakes.  

Minnesotans sound off on finalists for new state flag 01:54

Two panelists from southern Minnesota noted that loons aren't present in that part of the state and pushed back on making the bird the main image depicted on the flag. In the end, the finalists excluded loons in favor of stars.

"While loons may be beautiful and Lady Slippers may be beautiful or Norway pines might be beautiful and they may be our state symbols, they don't represent us down here. We don't have any of those things on the prairies of southwest Minnesota or southern Minnesota," said Dr. Anita Gaul, vice-chair of the commission who is a history professor at a community college in Worthington.

Ultimately, though, one of the top state seal choices does include a loon on it. 

When will the new seal and flag debut?

The commission must adopt one flag and seal design and submit a report to the legislature detailing those choices by Jan. 1. Then those will make their debut on May 11, which is Statehood Day, and the current designs will retire. 

The finalists right now may change slightly. Commission members can tweak colors, symbol placement and other elements like choosing a different star design. The six flags and five seals they selected reflect a framework of what they'll look like.

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