COLUMBIA — Starting next year, Missouri could have one fewer voice in Washington.
Election Data Services released a report Sunday predicting that Missouri will lose one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives when the results from the 2010 census are released later this year. Missouri currently sends nine representatives to Congress.
"Missouri has been on the teeter-totter for awhile," said Kimball Brace, the president of Election Data Services. "If there was going to be any change, it was going be a flip between Minnesota and Missouri."
As mandated by the Constitution, states are represented in the House based on their share of the country's population as a whole. Some populous states send dozens of representatives to Washington; others, like Alaska and Wyoming, send only one.
Every 10 years, the makeup of the House has to be adjusted based on new census data. The process by which representatives are added or removed is called "reapportionment".
The 2010 census was conducted in April, but the results won't be released until late December. Until the U.S. Census Bureau announces the official numbers, no one knows for sure what the House will look like in 2011.
The predictions were based on data provided by Esri, a company that tracks demographic trends. To come up with the estimates, Esri looked at a variety of data points, including those provided by the Census Bureau, mail delivery routes, residential construction statistics and past trends.
The margins in the projections for who lost and who gained seats was surprisingly slim: Missouri is predicted to lose its ninth seat by only 36,723 people. Because the Esri data does not factor in some demographic groups included in the Census — like American servicemen and federal employees stationed overseas — the predicted outcome is not certain.
Brace stressed that these factors — especially military personnel — could tip the scales back in favor of Missouri.
"How many Minnesotans join the military?" he said. "My gut says not as many (as Missourians)."
In addition to Missouri's loss, gains are predicted in some Western states — Texas, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Washington — as well as in the Southeast. Ohio and New York would lose two seats each, and Pennsylvania, Iowa, Illinois and Louisiana would join Missouri in losing a single seat.
Missouri's representation was last modified in 1983, when its 10 representatives were reduced to nine. If Missouri does indeed lose a seat in December, it will be up to the new state legislature to decide how the electoral districts will be redrawn.