A glance at the wide population swings in some of Minnesota’s legislative districts is a reminder that lawmakers don’t redraw the districts every 10 years for the heck of it.
Back in 2002, the state’s legislative districts were redrawn so that each House district came as close as possible to exactly 36,713 people.
By 2007, according to the most recent information available on the Legislature’s Geographic Information Services website, the population picture had changed radically in some districts — particularly the farthest-flung suburban and exurban areas around the Twin Cities metro. GOP reps from those areas — including Michael Beard, Bob Dettmer and Tom Emmer — saw significant spikes in the number of constituents they represent. Beard, of Shakopee, had 54,678 as of ’07; Dettmer, of Forest Lake, had 55,675; and Emmer, the GOP endorsed candidate for governor from Delano, had 54,224. In other words, each of those districts saw their 2000 population numbers spike upward by an average of nearly 50 percent.
Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, saw his district’s population trending in the opposite direction. His Iron Range district declined to 31,943 people, a drop of about 14 percent from 2000 Census figures.
Lawmakers will set out again in 2012 to restore equilibrium. That means districts in the exurbs will get smaller in geographical terms, and districts in northeastern Minnesota and other rural spots that have seen population declines will get larger.
One important caveat: The explosive population growth around the Twin Cities fringes has stagnated since the housing bubble burst and the economic recession kicked in. But State Demographer Tom Gillaspy said that the new legislative districts in 2012 will reflect the population trends of the bubble years by squeezing more districts into the outer ring of the Twin Cities. (I’ve got a related story in Thursday’s edition of Capitol Report, where Gillaspy elaborates on his predictions.)
Of course what voters decide in subsequent elections is a matter of conjecture that only time will confirm or deny. But a likely trend is for more Beards, Dettmers and Emmers to be taking in office in St. Paul.
Here’s a district-by district breakdown of population shifts in Minnesota House districts from 2002 to 2007. (Click to enlarge)