Minnesota narrowly misses losing US House seat; keeps all 8

Published 2:56 pm Monday, April 26, 2021

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Minnesota narrowly avoided losing one of its eight seats in Congress despite the failure of its population growth to keep up with some other states, according to figures released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

While Minnesota’s growth rate was behind the national average, it wasn’t enough to cost Minnesota one of the eight U.S. House seats the state has had since the 1960s.

It will be up to the governor and Legislature, the only one in the country where power is divided between Democrats and Republicans, to decide how to redraw voting districts based on more detailed census data that is expected to be released in late summer. In the likely case they can’t agree, the task will fall to the courts.

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The census figures also could have a financial impact for Minnesota. Though federal aid is not linked directly to the number of U.S. House seats, Census Bureau data play a role in determining how to allot hundreds of billions of dollars annually through Medicaid, food stamps and about 130 other federal programs. States that have grown faster than Minnesota could benefit with more money.

The new census figures show only the state’s total population, not the breakdown for cities and counties. But population estimates based on other sources indicate that Minnesota’s urban areas — particularly around the Twin Cities, north to St. Cloud — have grown faster than its rural areas, said Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower.

The population has remained relatively flat in northeast Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District, she said, meaning it will have to grow geographically or be merged with parts of neighboring districts when voting maps are redrawn.

Peter Wattson, a former state government attorney and redistricting expert, has preemptively sued the state over its congressional and state legislative districts.

Anticipating that the Democratic-led House, Republican-led Senate and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz won’t be able to agree on new districts by the state constitutional deadline of Feb. 15, Wattson is asking the Supreme Court chief justice to appoint a special redistricting panel that can complete the task.

Courts have stepped into Minnesota’s map-drawing every decade since the 1980s for congressional districts and the 1970s for state legislative districts.
Minnesota’s U.S. House seats peaked at 10 following the 1910 and 1920 censuses before falling to nine after the 1930 census and eight after then 1960 census. The state also narrowly avoided losing a seat after the 2010 census.

During the past decade, Minnesota’s overall population growth actually has been pretty strong compared to some Midwestern states, Brower said.
But “it’s not anywhere near the growth that you see in some of those Southwestern states or some of those Southern states like Texas or Florida,” she said. “We’re really competing against those states that are enormous and have been growing fast for a very long time.”