Will Minnesota lose a seat in Congress?

With the U.S. Census set to open an office in St. Paul tomorrow, political discussion focused this morning on Minnesota's eight U.S. House seats. The Humphrey Institute is holding a forum on redistricting reform today.

State demographer Tom Gillaspy said, as it stands now, Minnesota's "last seat" has fallen off the bottom of the Congressional roster, below Washington state's 9th and California's 53rd.

Here's the upshot: Congress has been fixed at 435 seats for almost 100 years. Each state gets one Representative, and the other 385 are doled out proportionately. But the population - and the makeup of Congress - have been moving to the Sun Belt. Texas is likely to get four new seats, for example, and those seats have to come from somewhere else.

Minnesota's "last district" (it could be any of the current eight) now stands 387th on the probable ranking that Gillaspy has drawn up.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that Minnesota is only about 1,800 people from making the list. That's about two weeks of population growth in Minnesota. "It's close," Gillaspy told the legislators and political wonks who turned out for the discussion. "It's closer than the Senate recount right now."

And with exactly 16 months before Census Day (April 1, 2010), there's still time to close the gap. Heck, there's still time to even "grow your own," if you were of a procreational mind about Congressional representation.

Gillaspy suggested something with a shorter gestational period: "When you get those census forms," he joked, "Fill 'em out early and fill 'em out often."

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