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How Much Will 2012 Reapportionment Reduce Minnesota’s Political Influence?

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About a year ago Smart Politics examined the political impact of Iowa losing a seat in the U.S. House, as it is projected to do after the 2012 reapportionment. State Demographer Tom Gillaspy recently projected Minnesota is also on track to lose a seat.

Should this occur, the impact on the political influence of the Gopher State and the Upper Midwest generally is quite stark upon examining the historical trend.

If Minnesota loses a seat, they will send the fewest members to the U.S. House since the 1890s. But that doesn’t tell the entire story, as in the 52nd Congress (1891-1893) there were only 332 Representatives in D.C. At that time, Minnesota, at 7 Representatives, thus held 2.1 percent of House seats. In 2012, with 435 voting members of the lower chamber, Minnesota would only account for 1.6 percent of House seats.

Therefore, you would have to go back to the 1880s, when the Gopher State sent just 5 members to the U.S. House (1.5 percent of the 325 seats), to find an era when Minnesota had less influence on policymaking in the lower chamber - at least from a sheer numbers game (Collin Peterson and Jim Oberstar’s Committee Chairmanships help alleviate that problem in the short term; Oberstar, however, is at risk of retiring each election cycle).

Upon examining the influence of the region generally – Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota – the projected 19 members sent to the House in 2012 would be the lowest since the 1860s, when the region had 14 U.S. Representatives.

However, the number of Representatives in the House ranged from 183 to 243 members during the 1860s. At its lowest percentage, the three state region accounted for 5.8 percent of Representatives that decade (in the 41st Congress, 1869-1871). That is still larger than the 4.4 percent a 19-member Minnesota-Iowa-Wisconsin delegation would account for in 2012.

In short, the 2012 reapportionment will likely find the three battleground states in the Upper Midwest at its lowest proportional representation in the U.S. House since the 1850s.

And, as the number of Representatives declines, so will the number of allocated Electoral College votes. If this population trend is not halted, how much attention will presidential candidates pay to Minnesota and its neighbors in 2012, 2016, and 2020?

Previous post: Live Blog: Fair Elections in Minnesota
Next post: Upper Midwestern Reapportionment, Part II: A Historical Overview

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