MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota barely avoided losing one of its eight seats in Congress and one of its 10 electoral votes thanks to a nation-leading effort to get people to respond to the 2020 census, edging New York for the last seat allotted by just 89 people, according to data released Monday.
Minnesota’s overall growth rate, including citizens living overseas, was 7.4% - slightly better than the overall nationwide rate of 7.1%, according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau. That helped Minnesota keep all eight of the U.S. House seats that it has had since the 1960s. Minnesota’s population growth rate ranked 19th among the states. The bureau put Minnesota’s population at 5.7 million, compared with 5.3 million a decade ago.
“It’s the proverbial dodging of the bullet, and really good news for Minnesota,” Hamline University political scientist David Schultz said
Minnesota may have been aided by a stronger-than-usual response to the Census Bureau’s survey. Three-fourths of Minnesota residents voluntarily responded during the initial phase of the census - top among the states and well ahead of the national average of a two-thirds response rate.
“We’re good, civic-minded people who like to respond to questionnaires, like from the census,” said Peter Wattson, a former state government attorney and redistricting expert who has preemptively sued the state, seeking to have the courts redraw its congressional and state legislative districts
“I think this a ‘Good job Minnesota’ moment,” University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs said.
Census Bureau staff said Minnesota received the last congressional seat allotted, which cost New York a seat. Minnesota also received the last House seat in 2010, just edging out North Carolina.
Both Schultz and Jacobs agreed that there’s no chance that the divided Legislature will agree on a new congressional district map, meaning the task will once again fall to the courts.
“I would be totally stunned if this is an exception to the rule this year,” Schultz said.
Anticipating that the Democratic-led House, Republican-led Senate and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz won’t agree 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.
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. But the population has remained relatively flat in northeast Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, she said.
Land will likely need to shift from the state’s urban and suburban districts toward the mostly rural 8th District in northeastern Minnesota, the 7th in western Minnesota and the 1st across southern Minnesota, and there could be a shift in the boundary between the 7th and 8th, Schultz said.
Jacobs said another possibility is that Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Minneapolis-based - and heavily Democratic - 5th District could get pushed toward the more independent-minded northern suburbs. And he said he expects Democratic leaders will seek to protect Rep. Angie Craig in her swing suburban 2nd District.
The announcement came as a relief to Minnesota Democratic and Republican leaders.
“We stepped up, fought hard, and retained a seat in Congress that most observers thought we would lose,” state Democratic Party Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement.
GOP state Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan noted that Minnesota Republicans have flipped three congressional seats in the past two election cycles. She didn’t mention that Democrats flipped two, limiting the net GOP gain to one.
“No matter what the new districts look like, we are optimistic about our possibilities to flip even more seats in 2022,” Carnahan said.
Redrawing legislative districts will require more detailed census data that is expected to be released in late summer. Jacobs said the shift of territory from rural toward suburban and urban areas could complicate GOP hopes of retaining control of the state Senate and retaking the Minnesota House.
“We still have a lot of information we need to play with at this point in terms of figuring out what the lines are going to look like,” Schultz said.
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.
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.
David Lieb reported from Jefferson City, Missouri.
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