Tom Schneck over at the MPR Capital View has an interesting column concerning the realignment of Congressional Districts as a result of the 2010 census. The premise is that if each district is to hold the same number of citizens (projected at 662,990) then Michelle Bachmann (R-MN-06) and John Kline (R-MN-02) have the most to lose. The theory is that entrenched incumbents are protected in realignment. Historically, that is true … and that may actually produce a process in which redistricting may actually reward districts that are not participating at the same rate as others. Assuming, the districts remain close to their current shapes as it is not uncommon for the political parties to encourage maps that protect their current representatives (and power bases). However, major changes can occur in the areas that are served – for example, the southern portion of Minnesota that runs parallel to the Iowa border currently contains the First District … prior to that it was split at the Minnesota River with First taking east side and Second Districts taking the west side.
Which begs the question : Will re-alignment increase voter participation in races that were not considered competitive.
Based on SoS data, 66.8% of registered voters participated in the 2010 elections.
Most interesting is how many participated based on 2009 population estimates in the 2010 elections … and not surprisingly the elections won by MN-GOP had higher participation rates.
The 8th District won by Raymond Cravaack (R) had a participation rate of 42.6% based on 277,081 total votes over a projected population of 649,438.
That was followed by Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03) at 41.2% (274,092 votes 664,528 population);
Ms. Bachmann in the Sixth at 40.2% (303,691 votes 755,489);
Colin Peterson (D-MN-07) at 39.2 (241,097 votes 615,742 population);
Tim Walz (D-MN-01) at 39.0% (248,005 votes 635,429 population);
Kline in the Second at 38.9% (286,453 votes 737,324 population);
Betty McCollum (D-MN-04) at 37.1% (231,426 votes 623,879 population);
and Keith Ellison (D-MN-05) at 37.0% (228,746 votes 618,292 population).
Looking at the rates of participation, it probably indicates that where races are competitive, then voters turnout increases. However what was “safe” yesterday, may competitive after realignment.
According to the MRP story, the Seventh District (Peterson) will gain the most number of voters at 47,248 … even though Mr. Peterson won comfortably by a margin of 44,244, the realignment could be dramatic. As Mark Sommerhauser of the St. Clouds Times reported “it’s possible St. Cloud will end up in the 7th District, where it was in the 1990s and 1980s.”
Considering that America has a represented democracy form of government, let’s hope the realignment produces districts that encourage more citizens to vote … even if it means incumbents are defeated or political parties lose power.
For more information, this MPR story provides the thoughts from some of the current members of Congress.