The U. S. Census Bureau on Monday released the results of the 2020 Census and the numbers were not favorable for seven states, most notably West Virginia.
The population counts are used for allotting the number of seats a state can have in the U. S. House of Representatives.
According to the U. S. Census Bureau, West Virginia dropped from 1,852,994 residents in 2010 to 1,739,716 in 2020, or a 3.2 percent reduction in population during the decade. That percentage over the 10-year period was the highest in the country.
The loss was significant enough for the state to lose one House seat and now be required to “redraw or redistrict its legislative boundaries.”
Five other states—California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — will also be subject to redistricting and additionally will lose one congressional representative.
The reduction in congressional seats takes effect beginning in the 2022-midterm elections.
Currently West Virginia has three congressional districts that are represented by David McKinley (R) First District; Alex Mooney (R), Second District; and Carol Miller (R), Third District, which encompasses Mingo County. For the past three decades the districts have been portioned in three zones from north to south.
The latest census represents the first time since 1990 that West Virginia lost enough of its residents to mandate the redistricting of its legislative boundaries. That year the decrease in population lowered the number from the then four districts to the current three.
On Tuesday, April 27, Miller, McKinley and Mooney released a joint statement to the Mingo Messenger expressing, “Many are predicting that West Virginia could lose a seat due to population loss. Our delegation has been working together to bring jobs and people to our state and it is our hope that we maintain three seats.”
“At this time, we all plan to seek re-election to Congress. Once the West Virginia State Legislature meets in the fall and redraws the congressional maps, we will consider the issue again at that time.”
20th District Del. Nathan Brown conveyed both concern and frustration over the state’s decrease in population, along with the loss of a congressional seat as a consequence.
“It’s really unfortunate that we’re going to lose a congressional seat in Washington,” he said Tuesday.“That’s going to affect us locally because it ultimately dictates somewhat the amount of money that gets sent back to the state.”
From the perspective of the WV Legislature, Brown said he anticipates the district boundaries likely being drawn wider in the southern part of the state because of counties such as Mingo having far fewer people.
“We simply don’t have the population we once had,” he said. “There has been some growth in the northern and east panhandle of the state but the southern part has lost population.”
Since 2015, Brown said, the state has been concentrating on policies that many in the legislature believe will bring people into the state, only to realize that few, if any, have actually born fruit.
“I think the numbers we got from the recent Census report affirm that none of those policies are working,” he said.
Brown said young people, particularly, are leaving the state en masse to search for better opportunities elsewhere. He said much more focus should be placed on creating those opportunities in the Mountain State, such as shoring up infrastructure and broadband.
“Wasting money on appellate courts and legal reform that’s not needed certainly does nothing, I mean zero, to bring people into our state. We should be focusing on 21st Century technology and jobs and not driving our youth out of state,” he said.
As far as the manner by which the state will be redistricted and if politics will play any kind of a role in the process, Brown said he believes it will come down to the Republican majority pushing for the remapping of the “multi-number districts … to get every advantage they can for the majority party.”
“I don’t think it will affect elections in single number districts like the 20th District, but Mon County has, I think, five delegates and I understand (the Republican with majorities in both House and Senate) may try to draw a line which will have single numbers, or, at least not five members, in a particular district,” he said. “But the problem they’re going to have is there are 77 (out of a total of 100) of them in the House and at some point they’re going to have to pit Republican against Republican because there’s just no way to avoid it due to the number of people they have.”