(KMOV/AP)-- Missouri's loss of one congressional seat will give the state its smallest delegation since the 1850 census and provide Republicans who control the state Legislature with an opportunity to redraw districts to solidify their party's power.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced Tuesday that Missouri's delegation will shrink from nine to eight seats as its population grows more slowly than the nation's as a whole. Missouri's population grew by 7 percent, but entire country's population grew by 9.7 percent, the bureau said. Every 10 years, the 435 seats in the U.S. House are redistributed among the states based on population.
The loss of the seat means one of Missouri's federal lawmakers likely will be forced out of a job, and with its voice in Washington reduced, the state is likely to get less federal money for local projects. It also will lose a seat in the Electoral College, reducing its influence in presidential elections.
Missouri's congressional delegation peaked at 16 from 1900 to 1920. The state most recently lost a seat after the 1980 census cut the number of districts from 10 to nine. That consolidation helped cost Republican Wendell Bailey his seat in Congress. He lost in the 1982 election to Democrat Ike Skelton.
Some have speculated the loss of another seat this year could similarly force out Democratic U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan in two years. Carnahan won re-election to his St. Louis-area seat this year in a tight contest against Republican challenger Ed Martin. Carnahan's district extends south from St. Louis into Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve counties along the Mississippi River.
Missouri's other Democratic federal lawmakers are Lacy Clay, whose district includes St. Louis city and St. Louis County, and Emanuel Cleaver, who represents a Kansas City-area district.
Russ Carnahan issued a statement after the announcment saying:
“This is just the first step in a long process. My hope is that everyone involved is focused solely on making sure the map is drawn in a way that best serves the people and communities of Missouri. After all, you have to draw the lines according to where the people are. For my part, I am going to continue working closely with my Missouri colleagues at every level of government in both political parties to make sure that the new map is fair and designed to ensure strong representation for the people of this region.”
Political scientist George Connor said he expects state Republicans to be cautious about redrawing districts to force out Missouri's three Democratic congressmen, but Carnahan seemed most vulnerable.
"If they're going to re-draw the map, and if they're going to try to target an existing predominantly Democratic seat, it is going to be the Carnahan seat," said Connor, the head of the political science department at Missouri State University. "This is particularly true because he was pressed pretty hard by Ed Martin."
Carnahan said previously that will work to ensure new congressional districts are fair and allow for strong representation in his region.
Missouri Democrats, meanwhile, said dividing the St. Louis-region into fewer than the existing three congressional districts could prove difficult.
The Census Bureau population estimates released Tuesday were focused on the entire state. More detailed information about populations in specific regions will be released this spring.
Missouri's loss of a congressional district follows a national trend of states in the Midwest and the northeast losing seats to those in the south and west as the population shifts.
In past years, redistricting has proven highly contentious for some states as political parties sought electoral advantages.
Missouri Republicans said they want congressional districts that ensure everyone has equitable representation.
"At the end of the day, the redistricting process will need to be fair and fully represent the people of the great state of Missouri," said state Republican Party Executive Director Lloyd Smith, who has gone through redistricting several times.
The Missouri Legislature will create the new congressional districts as a bill -- just like any legislation. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon could veto an objectionable proposal, which would force lawmakers to decide whether to override with a two-thirds vote. Republicans control more than two-thirds of the Senate and are just shy of that in the House.
If the Legislature cannot agree to a plan, the federal courts could draw the new congressional boundaries.
In Illinois, the number of congressional seats will now be 18 instead of 19. The congressional map is re-drawn each decade based on the popluation count.
The figures are used to reapportion the 435 House seats among the 50 states.
The U.S. population is 308.7 million, which is the lowest growth since the Great Depression.