Census: Minnesota to keep 8 seats in U.S. House

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Minnesota’s population grew just enough in the past decade for the state to retain its eight seats in the U.S. House for the next 10 years, according to the first data released from the 2010 Census.

The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that Minnesota’s population grew 7.8 percent — to 5.31 million — from 2000 to 2010. The nation as a whole grew faster, however, at 9.7 percent to 308.7 million.

Every 10 years, the bureau releases population figures that are used to distribute the 435 seats in the U.S. House. Fast-growing states tend to pick up seats at the expense of those growing more slowly.

States that lose seats lose influence in Washington and votes in the electoral college, so giving up a seat can mean less attention both from the federal government and presidential candidates.

An analysis by reapportionment expert Kimball Brace of Election Data Services found Minnesota was awarded the final House seat with only 8,739 people to spare, just edging out Missouri.

Brace chalked the victory up to the state’s Scandinavian culture, which is traditionally known for encouraging good citizenship and has translated into consistently high census and election participation rates.

“It has been helped by its heritage,” he said of Minnesota. “That’s where they mainly benefited in gaining that very last seat.”

Demographers say Minnesota was on the edge of losing a seat for the first time since 1960 as the nation’s population continued its decades-long shift South and West.

Texas will gain four new House seats, and Florida will gain two. Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington will gain one each.

Ohio and New York each will lose two House seats. Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will lose one seat each.

Gov.-elect Mark Dayton said with the state facing a $6.2 billion deficit and sluggish economy, it couldn’t afford to lose a voice in Washington nor any of $400 billion federal money allocated based on census data.

“Thank you to the Minnesotans who responded to the 2010 Census and helped us achieve the second highest response rate in the nation,” he said.

The difference between keeping and losing a seat also may have come down to efforts to make sure everyone in the state was counted, said State Demographer Tom Gillaspy, who calculated the margin at less than 2,000 people.

“It was so close, to lose a few people would have done it,” he said. “We turned over every stone we could to make sure that no one got left out.”

For instance, Monica Nilsson, director of street outreach for St. Stephen’s Human Services in Minneapolis, worked to ensure homeless people in shelters and those crashing with friends were counted in the 2010 Census.

She said 1,700 people are homeless in Hennepin County, the state’s largest, each night. She knew “just counting all the homeless in Hennepin County could make the difference for that Congressional seat,” she said.

Minnesota had the second-highest response rate in the nation to the 2010 Census at 81 percent; only Wisconsin was higher. It also had the most accurate count in the 2000 Census, a follow-up analysis found.

Now that each state knows about the changes in its Congressional delegation, if any, the hard work of changing the districts for the U.S. House and local lawmakers speeds up.

Gillaspy said each U.S. House district in a state must contain the same number of people, which means the fast-growing suburban districts of Republican Reps. Michelle Bachman and John Kline must contract.

At the same time, new neighborhoods must be brought into the shrinking Twin Cities districts represented by Democratic Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison.

So next year, the Republican-controlled Legislature will begin redrawing the congressional districts and 201 state legislative districts. That map will go to Dayton for approval.

If Dayton and the Legislature can’t agree, or someone files a lawsuit, the matter probably will wind up in the courts — which has happened many times in the past.

On Tuesday, the Republican Party of Minnesota announced that Deputy Chairman Michael Brodkorb will be the party’s leader for redistricting during the legislative session that starts next month.

“We are committed to developing a fair redistricting plan, which recognizes recent demographic changes that have occurred in Minnesota and gives minorities the best opportunity for representation,” he said.

Democratic Minority Leader Rep. Paul Thissen said his party expects no less. “We call on the Republican majority to put Minnesota’s electoral integrity above partisan political games as we move forward with redistricting,” he said.