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Voters are already casting their ballots for the March 17 primary election in Illinois, the votes to be counted after the polls close.

But it’s a different sort of counting that will have an effect on the winners in congressional primary races — the tally that will be posted after the 2020 Census and the subsequent reapportionment in advance of the 2022 election.

Because of the state’s problems with declining population, Illinois is a sure bet to lose at least one U.S. House seat. But that’s not necessarily final, as a study recently released by the Brookings Institution advises.

“... in the 2010 Census, 19.3 percent of the state’s population did not respond to the census. According to a study by Election Data Services, Illinois is expected to end up with a count of approximately 12.63 million people in the 2020 Census. That would mean we are just 126,000 people away from losing a second seat. And if undercounting is severe, the state could very well lose that second congressional seat,” writes Benjamin Polony.

Illinois’ population woes are well known. Less well-known is its impact on the state’s representation in the U.S. House. It reached its high population point in 2013, at 12.9 million. It’s steadily fallen since then, to 12.65 million.

The Land of Lincoln shares its negative growth rate with Vermont, Connecticut and West Virginia.

Illinois currently has 18 House seats — 13 Democrats and five Republicans.

Each House member represents about 745,000 people, meaning that the state’s population loss of 250,000 since 2010 guarantees a loss of one seat.

The current political imbalance — 13-5 in favor of the Democrats — is the result of Democratic Party leaders drawing district boundary lines to their benefit.

They will surely do the same again next year, targeting one of the state’s five U.S. House Republicans for extinction.

Like almost everyone else, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale political science Professor John Jackson said Democrats will squeeze three downstate Republicans into two districts — Michael Bost (12th District), Rodney Davis (13th District) and the winner of the battle to succeed U.S. Rep. John Shimkus in the 15th District.

That, of course, presumes Davis defeats his Democratic challenger in the November election, a major presumption given how close his last win was over frontrunner Democrat Betsy Londrigan of Springfield.

If Londrigan should win this year, that would create another kind of problem, according to University of Illinois-Chicago political science Professor Chris Mooney.

“Even if the Democrats win the 13th (David/Londrigan) in 2020, the Dems are going to have a tough time finding enough D votes to win it in 2022,” he said. “If they try to pack D votes in a single downstate district, we can expect to see a weirdly shaped district emerge in search of Democrat downstate voters.”

If Illinois loses a second House seat, that’s likely to cause reshaping in Cook and the collar counties, where Democrats have made inroads in what were once solid Republican areas.

The affected areas would be districts 6 and 14, now represented by Democrats Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood, respectively.

“If the Democrats keep their hold over those areas (in the 2020 election), then the loss of a second seat there will hurt Democrats,” Mooney said.

Besides Illinois, nine states are predicted to lose one congressional seat — Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Alabama and, remarkably, California.

Substantial growth areas are Texas, North Carolina, Arizona and Florida. Texas could gain as many as three seats.

Brookings pointed out that the states enjoying the largest growth are those carried by President Donald Trump in the 2016 election. But its analysis pointed out that doesn’t mean the Republicans will gain seats in those states because the growth is coming from “Democratic-leaning voting blocs.”

Jim Dey is a staff writer for The News-Gazette. His email is jdey@news-gazette.com.

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Jim Dey is a staff writer for The News-Gazette. His email is jdey@news-gazette.com.