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West Virginia Has Sharpest Population Decline In U.S., Will Lose A Seat In Congress

WV 2020 Census West Virginia
FILE - From left; Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., in a March 21, 2017, file photo; Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., in a Feb. 5, 2020, file photo, and Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., in a Jan. 23, 2017, file photo. West Virginia's long population slide has cost the state another congressional seat, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Monday, April 26, 2021, likely forcing three Republican incumbents to vie for two House districts after the next round of redistricting. (AP Photo/File)

Updated Monday, April 26, 2021 at 5:45 p.m.

West Virginia's population has declined at the highest rate in the nation over the last 10 years, which translates to the state losing a seat in congress following the 2022 midterm elections.

According to preliminary data released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau, West Virginia lost 3.2 percent of its population since 2010 — the highest rate of population loss in the nation. West Virginia now has just under 1.795 million people, according to the 2020 Census.

The national count dictates apportionment in the U.S. House of Representatives and each state’s impact on the electoral college.

While six states are picking up one or more seats in congress, West Virginia is one of seven to lose a seat — bringing the state down from three seats to two.

In a joint statement last week, the current House members — Rep. David McKinley, Rep. Alex Mooney and Rep. Carol Miller — said they all planned to run for reelection, but might reconsider after the new lines are drawn.

The state's representation in congress has trended downward since the 1960 Census, when it lost its sixth seat in the U.S. House.

Results from the 2020 Census have been held up for months due to the delays caused by the coronavirus and interference by the Trump administration.

Once final data is delivered, the West Virginia Legislature will hold a special session in the fall to redraw the state’s congressional districts and divide up representation at the statehouse.

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.

A native of Washington, West Virginia, Dave Mistich joined West Virginia Public Broadcasting in October of 2012, as the Charleston Reporter. After bouncing around a variety of newsroom roles at WVPB, he now focuses on state-level politics and government, as well as breaking news. Dave plays on the world's best-worst softball team, Chico's Bail Bonds. He can be reached via email at dmistich@wvpublic.org and you can follow him on Twitter @davemistich.

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