Our Opinion: Census figures bring political ramifications

Politics and demographics will reflect substantial changes as a result of the 2010 Census figures.

A political consideration — specifically the makeup of the U.S. House of Representatives — is the constitutional basis for the enumeration of citizens every 10 years.

Although Missouri’s population increased in the past decade, growth lagged behind that of other states.

As a consequence, Missouri will lose a congressional seat. The most recent loss, incidentally, reflects a steady decrease from the state’s high of 16 seats a century ago.

The obvious question becomes: Who will lose a seat?

Although the answer remains elusive, early speculation focuses on:

• Third District Democrat Russ Carnahan of St. Louis. Parts of his district have been losing population and some observers question if the St. Louis area merits three congressional districts.

• Fourth District Rep.-elect Vicky Hartzler, the Republican who recently unseated veteran Democrat Ike Skelton. The district is perceived as divisible because it abuts five other districts.

• Merging the 6th and 9th districts now represented, respectively, by Republicans Sam Graves of Tarkio and Blaine Luetkemeyer of St. Elizabeth. A merger might be justified by population declines in northern Missouri.

Redistricting begins when state lawmakers convene in January and will culminate in the November 2012 elections, when Missouri voters elect congressional representatives in the redrawn districts.

The process likely will start in the Missouri House, which already has named its redistricting committee that includes eight Republicans and four Democrats.

Advantage Republicans, although chairman John Diehl, R-Town and Country, assured Missourians “there have been absolutely no determinations made.”

Like any other bill, redistricting must earn passage in both chambers and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s signature. If they fail, the map-making defaults to federal judges.

Boundary changes are not limited to congressional districts. Within Missouri, state Senate and House districts also will be redrawn, by separate panels whose members are nominated by the political parties and appointed by the governor.

The process extends to the municipal level, where Jefferson City’s charter requires ward boundaries to be reconfigured based on census results. The city’s shift to non-partisan elections, however, presumably makes city redistricting less political.

Political observers can anticipate the level of lobbying to ratchet up several notches, with particular intensity directed toward members of the redistricting panels.

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