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Minnesota's 5.3 million people keep 8 U.S. House seats

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ST. PAUL -- Minnesota grew by 384,446 people in the past decade, but 15,000 is a more important number.

Minnesota beat North Carolina by 15,000 people to keep its eight U.S. House seats. Had 15,000 fewer Minnesotans filled out their census forms last spring, the state would be faced with figuring out how to draw congressional district lines for just seven House seats.

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District lines still will be redrawn in the next year to fulfill the one person, one vote federal requirement. With a continued migration from rural to urban areas, that means rural congressional districts will get larger geographically so each district can hold the same number of people, but that will be far less politically painful than if Minnesota had lost a seat.

"Today's announcement is good news for Minnesotans," Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton said Tuesday after the U.S. Census Bureau announced its figures from the every-10-years population count. "The loss of a congressional seat would have meant less clout for our state in Washington."

Republicans in the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton are charged with the duty of redrawing congressional and legislative district lines. However, the last four census counts have ended with the courts deciding on new boundaries after politicians failed the task.

"As our state faces dire budget circumstances and Minnesota families continue to struggle in a tough economy, we simply could not afford to lose an important voice in our national policy discussion, nor the billions of federal dollars that are allocated to our state based on population," Dayton said. "While we will maintain eight congressional seats in Washington, we will still face a redistricting process that will change the geographical boundaries for Minnesota's representation in Washington and in our state's Capitol. We must adopt a process that encourages transparency, fairness, and absolute integrity."

Tuesday's census announcement prompted calls for Minnesota to change its redistricting plan.

"Minnesota's redistricting process is clearly broken and it's time for legislators to support sensible reform," said Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota. "An independent redistricting commission will help reduce partisan influence over the redistricting process, making it more fair and democratic."

While the U.S. Constitution gives each state two senators, the House's 435 members are divided up based on population. While Minnesota grew in the last 10 years, since the last census was taken, some state officials feared that it had not grown as much as states like North Carolina, which also were on the bubble.

State Demographer Tom Gillespie encouraged Minnesotans to return census forms last spring in hopes that all would be counted. That effort is one factor being credited for the state holding on to its full House delegation.

Redistricting will be discussed after the Legislature convenes on Jan. 4.

Tuesday's announcement included the fact that Minnesota now has 5.3 million residents, up from 4.9 million in 2000.

The figures show Minnesota continues to be the 21st most populous state.

In states adjoining Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota maintained their positions among states, but North Dakota dropped one position to 48th in population and Wisconsin fell two slots to 20th.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., the parent company of the Woodbury Bulletin.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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