Missouri's slow population growth continues

By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH
The Associated Press

Missouri will keep its eight U.S. House seats after U.S. Census Bureau data showed the state population growing slightly at 2.8% over the past decade.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Monday that the state had 6,154,913 residents in 2020. That was 165,986 more than the 2010 census figure of 5,988,927.

Every 10 years, the 435 seats in the U.S. House are redistributed among the states based on population. While Missouri's population growth over the decade was less than the national figure of 7.4%, it was good enough for the state not to lose a congressional seat.

“Missouri like much of the central part of the nation has remained relatively stable in terms of population change,” said Bill Hall, an adjunct professor of political science at Webster, Washington and Maryville universities.

The state wasn't so lucky a decade ago when it went from nine to eight congressional districts. That is the fewest number of congressional districts in Missouri since the 1850 census. Missouri’s congressional delegation peaked at 16 after the 1900 census and stayed there until the 1930 count.

Even without the loss of a congressional seat this time, the Republican-controlled Missouri Legislature faces a contentious battle next year over adjusting political boundaries.

Officials still are not certain where the population has changed within Missouri. But the state has seen a steady exodus from the city of St. Louis, which is heavily Democratic, to its outer suburbs, including not just St. Louis County, but more recently the counties of St. Charles, Franklin and Warren.

“With the significant migration from the urban core center to the outer suburban area, that suggests that the Republican party could be a big winner in any redistricting," Hall said.

Also, the rules the state will use to redraw the districts were revamped just last year when voters repealed parts of a 2018 initiative for drawing fair and competitive legislative districts. Voters opted instead to return to a method that will let commissions composed of Democratic and Republican loyalists redraw state legislative districts.

The Republican-backed measure also deleted a requirement to base districts on the total population tallied by the census. It instead references a Supreme Court standard of “one person, one vote,” opening up the possibility that redistricting commissioners could use only the citizen population.