Strong population growth in the last two years makes it more likely that Minnesota will retain its eight U.S. House seats after the 2020 census.
But U.S. Census Bureau estimates of state populations released Wednesday show that the state is still at risk of losing a representative in Washington because other states are growing even faster.
“It’s still very close,” said Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower. “But the numbers are going in the direction we would hope they go.”
She’s encouraged by recent increases in the migration of residents from other states.
“That’s a pretty big change for us,” she said, attributing the influx of new residents to Minnesota’s strong economy.
Since 2010, Minnesota’s population has grown by nearly 6 percent, much of it since 2016. But nine states and the District of Columbia have experienced double-digit growth estimates since 2010.
The new data, which tracked changes between July 1, 2017, and July 1, 2018, estimates the state’s population now tops 5.6 million — an all-time high and an increase of 43,024 in that 12-month period.
Census data is used to calculate the apportionment of 435 U.S. House seats. Changes in congressional delegation numbers in turn affect each state’s allotment of the 538 Electoral College votes.
Losing a district would make rural residents of the state feel even more isolated, said Steve Fenske, an attorney with the Minnesota Association of Townships.
As they compete for transportation dollars, he said, “many are already feeling as if their voices aren’t heard.”
Kimball Brace of Election Data Services, a Virginia consulting firm, said the fate of Minnesota’s eighth seat in the U.S. House depends on whether short- or long-term trends continue between now and the 2020 count.
If recent population growth patterns are a sign of things to come, the state would retain the seat. But if population trajectories dating to 2010 turn out to be more accurate, the seat would be lost.
“This bump that you’re seeing is potentially having an impact,” Brace said. “The key is: Will that bump continue?”
Outgoing state Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, has been through the redistricting process and said it can be complex and contentious; courts have decided the contours after the most recent censuses.
Borders will have to be redrawn to reflect population shifts even if the state doesn’t lose a U.S. House seat, he said.
“The best thing you can do is make it very transparent,” Dean said of the process, and he hopes legislators tackle it without relying on the courts.
The state’s tenuous hold on its eighth U.S. House seat puts pressure on Minnesota to count all of its residents in the upcoming census, Brace said.
The U.S. Commerce Department budget, which includes funding for the Census Bureau, is among the federal spending plans now hung up in Congress, he noted.
Minnesota has begun an aggressive educational campaign intended to ensure maximum participation in the census. Township officials are working on ways to count every resident, Fenske said.
Brower is hopeful that a corner has been turned. For the first six years of this decade, she said, “we weren’t growing enough.” Now, Minnesota’s growth “has surpassed the Midwest region.”
Illinois, for example, is among nine states that saw decreases in population between 2017 and 2018. The Census Bureau estimates it has almost 90,000 fewer residents now than in 2010.
Another big shift in Minnesota’s demographics is a few decades off, Brower said. By the early 2040s, the number of deaths will outstrip births in the aging population.