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

December 22, 2010
By Per Peterson

Every vote counts in an election year and every citizen counts when it comes to the U.S. Census, which is why census takers work so hard to account for every Minnesota citizen in their census drive every 10 years.

That work has paid off in 2010, as it was announced Tuesday that Minnesota will keep all eight of its U.S. House seats based on the newest U.S. Census count. With Minnesota on the edge of losing a seat for the first time since 1960, every person did, indeed, count this year.

"It means we'll keep one more U.S. House seat and one more electoral vote for the next 10 years, but not by much," Southwest Minnesota State University Political Science professor David Sturrock said Tuesday. "It was close."

How close? 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, the Associated Press said.

Every 10 years, the Census 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. Minnesota has had eight seats in Congress since 1960, when it lost a seat as the nation's population shifted South and West.

While Minnesota's growth has been estimated at 7.8 percent during the past decade, it's been higher in other states as the decades-old migration from the East and Midwest continues, the Associated Press?said.

The 2010 Census reported Tuesday that Minnesota's population is 5.31 million, up 7.8 percent over the 4.9 million Minnesotans counted 10 years ago. That's slower growth than the nation as a whole, which grew 9.7 percent, but faster than neighboring states of North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin, the AP said. South Dakota "just nosed us out as the fastest-growing Midwest state by a hair. Essentially, it was a tie," Sturrock said.

Sturrock said the leading factor as to why Minnesota came out on the positive end was its high census return rate - among the highest, if not the highest, in the United States. The Census Bureau said Minnesota was No. 2 in mail participation rate at 81 percent, just behind Wisconsin's 82 percent.

"Minnesotans are civic-minded people" he said. "We vote at the highest rate of any state in the union and return the census form at nearly the highest rate - here's the payoff of that. It's good news."

But Sturrock cautioned there could very well be a shift when the next census comes around in 2020 because the long-term trend shows that Minnesota is growing slower than most other states during the last century.

Minnesota lost a seat after the 1930 census and one after the 1960 count, and could possibly suffer another loss in 2020.

"Looking down the line, the odds are strong that we're going to lose that eighth seat in 10 years," Sturrock said. "We've been growing slower than the rest of the county, probably since the 1920s. Every so often that catches up with you."

The flip side to that, Sturrock said, is that since the 1970s, Minnesota has grown faster than other Midwestern states, with the exception of South Dakota.

The census count also determined how much state aid states receive. Counting everyone is key to getting a fair share of the $400 billion in federal money allocated annually based on census figures, Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy told the AP. The allocation is adjusted annually.

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

One measure of Minnesota's lack of population growth compared to the rest of the nation is that in the next decade Minnesota congressional districts will be about 7 percent smaller than the national average, Sturrock said. Districts' growth, or lack thereof, will be a factor in 2012 redistricting.

"This process will play out over the next 12 to 15 months," Sturrock said. "The Legislature, governor and probably the courts will all be involved. When the dust settles there will be fewer rural districts and probably fewer urban districts, and more suburban and exurban districts."

 
 

 

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