State may lose a Congressional seat by 2011

Minnesota will likely lose a Congressional seat after the 2010 census for the first time in 50 years. MinnesotaâÄôs population is growing faster than many states, State Demographer Tom Gillaspy said at a University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute forum on Monday, but still slower than the national average. Each state is guaranteed one seat in the U.S. House, while the remaining 385 seats are divvied up to others based on their populations. ItâÄôs up to the states to draw the boundaries for those seats. As southern states such as Arizona and Texas add representation, it comes at the expense of northern states, like Minnesota, Gillaspy said. âÄúYou sort of have to have a reason to move here,âÄù he said. Minnesota has had eight Congressional representatives since 1960, according to a presentation by Gillaspy. Larry Jacobs , director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the Humphrey Institute, said itâÄôs up to the Legislature to determine which seat would be lost. âÄúThink of this as a game of musical chairs,âÄù he said. âÄúOne of the chairs is about to go away. Who is going to be left standing?âÄù The trick to drawing appropriately sized districts is achieving equal population size, a process undertaken by the Legislature every 10 years. Suburban U.S. Districts 2 and 6 would need to shrink to balance their population with those of other districts, such as Minneapolis and St. Paul, Gillaspy said. Redistrict? Try reform Losing Congressional seats aside, the Legislature will need to undertake redistricting, the process of redrawing the congressional and legislative representation maps, in 2011. Leadership from both parties said reform is needed to ensure the process remains streamlined and fair. An error in Republican Gov. Arne Carlson âÄôs veto in 1991 and the failure of the Minnesota House to redraw districts in 2001 forced the Minnesota Supreme Court to take charge in redistricting those years, Jacobs said. The courtâÄôs role has led some to call for reform surrounding the redistricting process. Both Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller , DFL-Minneapolis, and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher , DFL-Minneapolis, called for âÄúopen, transparent and accountableâÄù redistricting at the forum. Several Minnesota lawmakers, from Pogemiller to Assistant House Minority Leader Rep. Laura Brod , R-New Prague, have introduced legislation in the past to create commissions to deal with redistricting. âÄúThose commissions are good, but theyâÄôre only as good as the people put on them,âÄù Brod said. âÄúI think the full responsibility does end up with the Legislature.âÄù Still, few have called for a less politically charged redistricting process. âÄúI think that the idea that you can scrub the process of politicsâĦis a bit naïve,âÄù Kelliher said. âÄúWe should not reform to take the politics out,âÄù Pogemiller said. âÄúThat is a task that cannot be accomplished.âÄù Sen. Warren Limmer , R- Maple Grove, called redistricting the âÄúblood sportâÄù of politics, and said reforming the process would be a challenge. Jacobs said political views and deal-making play an important role in redistricting. âÄúItâÄôs old fashioned political horse trading,âÄù Jacobs said. The process has taken a controversial tone with a procedure known as gerrymandering , in which majority parties draw districts with friendly demographics to help keep themselves in power. But the Minnesota Constitution has safeguards against gerrymandering , and Pogemiller said redistricting isnâÄôt a sure-fire ticket to a majority party holding control for long. âÄúI think thatâÄôs a good thing,âÄù he said. âÄúThatâÄôs one of the beauties of democracy. If somebody could totally control this, we should all be paranoid.âÄù âÄòItâÄôs the economy, stupidâÄô Can redistricting reform gain a foothold in an upcoming legislative session sure to be dominated by the economy and the state budget? Some say it can. âÄúYou have to do reform as far away from the election as possible,âÄù Pogemiller said. âÄúI think this would be the year to do something.âÄù Brod, who said she would reintroduce a bill to create an advisory commission in the next session, compared redistricting to insurance âÄî you donâÄôt pay attention to it until you need to use it. âÄúWhen you have an issue like redistricting that doesnâÄôt take any money but can transform how things operate, I think that should get attention,âÄù she said.