Missouri is likely to lose a seat, based on projections that the 2010 census will show Minnesota has about 15,000 more people.
WASHINGTON - After years of projections warned that Minnesota would lose a congressional seat following the 2010 census, a new estimate has found the state's eight congressional seats may be safe after all.
A political consulting firm, Election Data Services, now predicts that the state will hang onto all its House seats when the nation's congressional map is redrawn next year, thanks to 15,643 people.
That's how many it took to squeak Minnesota past Missouri, which now faces the possible loss of a seat after 2010 U.S. census results are released.
"We had an inkling of the Minnesota-Missouri switch because both states were right on the edge for that last seat in our 2009 study, said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, which issued its report over the weekend. The firm relied on Census Bureau estimates and independent analysis.
The margin remains so close that the state isn't entirely in the clear yet, said Tom Gillaspy, Minnesota's state demographer.
"The potential differences are so small that such a few number of people could swing the thing to one side or the other," Gillaspy said.
The report said that 16 states, including Minnesota, could still wind up with a different number of seats from the latest projections.
But the report is good news for the state's eight members of Congress. The loss of a seat would inevitably have pitted two incumbents against each other in the 2012 election. It also would give Minnesota one fewer delegate in the Electoral College for presidential elections.
Following each decennial census count, the country's 435 congressional districts are redrawn based on population. Minnesota has had eight congressional seats since 1960. It was the only Great Lakes state that didn't lose a seat in the 2000 census.
The official census count will be released in December.
Gillaspy said that when the difference between keeping or losing a seat is so narrow, small factors such as a high rate of return of census forms can change who gets an extra district.
Minnesota had the second-highest rate-of-return percentage in this year's count.
"Even if it could only make a quarter of a percent difference, it's enough to tip the scales in this case," Gillaspy said.
Keeping all eight seats would do much to turn down the volume on the looming political fight over redistricting and would give the incoming governor one less hot potato to handle early in his tenure.
"There will still be reapportionment battles," said Kathryn Pearson, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota. "But the stakes change when they're about drawing seven districts rather than eight districts."
Jeremy Herb • 202-408-2723