Minnesota in danger of losing congressional seat

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota padded its population of 5.2 million by 35,000 residents last year — not enough to keep the state from the cusp of losing a congressional seat.

State demographer Tom Gillaspy projected Wednesday that Minnesota could fall just 1,100 people short of what it needs to keep all eight of its seats. A thorough census count next year could be enough to change that. Minnesota last lost a congressional seat after the 1960 census.

“What it’s going to come down to is how well are we counted,” Gillaspy said.

The latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau showed Minnesota growing more slowly than western and southern states such as Texas, California, North Carolina and Georgia.

Gillaspy’s analysis puts the state in a tight race with Missouri, California and Texas for the final seat when the U.S. House of Representatives is reapportioned after the census. But the demographer said Minnesota has the nation’s best record for counting its population. Even small differences in the quality of counting in rival states could determine who gets the seat.

Households will receive the census form in the mail in mid-March and must return it by April 1.

Reapportionment expert Kimball Brace puts Minnesota among 10 or 11 states likely to lose congressional seats after the census. The state would just barely keep its eighth seat if reapportionment were done based on the 2009 estimates, said Brace, president of Manassas, Va.-based Election Data Services. His projections don’t include military troops.

State officials plan to pay close attention to counting those who live in college dormitories and other group homes, snowbirds who spend the winter in southern states and new immigrants. Gillaspy said he even is reminding new parents to add infants when they fill out the form.

“Sometimes people forget,” he said.

The Census Bureau is billing the 2010 form as 10 questions that can be answered in about 10 minutes. Besides being used to apportion seats in the U.S. House, it also is used to redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts and to help distribute nearly $450 billion in federal aid.