Apr 27, 2021 - Politics

How Minnesota's politeness saved the state a congressional seat

Change in House seats following 2020 Census
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Federal officials announced Monday that Minnesota narrowly beat out New York to hold onto all 8 of its congressional seats for the next decade.

Why it matters: Most demographers and political leaders expected the North Star State to finally lose a seat based on population estimates. That downsizing would have meant less clout in Washington.

  • The 89 residents New York needed to count to surpass Minnesota and snag the 435th seat was the closest margin in decades.
  • How shocking was the outcome? "Our entire office gasped," one political insider texted Axios after the results were announced.

What happened: It will take more time and analysis to understand what exactly bumped the state over the edge, but many are speculating that its nation-leading Census response rate played a role.

  • "We dodged the bullet for another decade, keeping our 8th seat!" Peter Wattson, a longtime legislative redistricting expert, wrote in an email blast to advocates and media. "Congratulations to all Minnesotans for counting ourselves so well."
  • Other factors β€” including COVID-19 deaths in New York at the start of the pandemic and a chilling factor from failed efforts to add a citizenship question β€” could have contributed, as MPR News notes.

Between the lines: Congressional incumbents are also breathing easier. Going to seven seats would have triggered a major overhaul of the state's political map in the upcoming redistricting process β€” and a game of musical chairs for members.

  • Some changes are inevitable, but they'll be less drastic, especially if the maps are eventually designed by the courts as expected.

Of note: Minnesota's new official population, as of April 1, 2020, is 5,709,752. That's up 7.6% since 2010.

What's next: Full Census data showing the trends in Minnesota and beyond will be released later this year.

  • Those figures will be used to craft new congressional, legislative and local districts ahead of the next elections.
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