CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A political consulting firm says continued decline in West Virginia’s population is threatening one of its three congressional seats.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports Election Data Services says the drop in the state’s population supports longtime speculation that West Virginia will lose a congressional seat by 2022, after the 2020 census.

“What that congressman is likely to see is that his house is going to be put into one of those two districts,” said Kimball Brace, president of EDS. “So then the question he would have, is, ‘Do I run against the other guy?’ ‘Do I retire?'”

EDS projects that West Virginia and other states like Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island all have seats that could be under threat by 2022.

The lost seats would be reapportioned to Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas, which are all growing, according to census data.

U.S. Census Bureau data released last week shows the state’s population is continuing to drop. Census data showed the state’s population as of July 1 is 1,815,857, down 12,780 from a revised estimate of 1,828,637 the same time a year ago. It’s the fifth straight drop in West Virginia’s population.

For West Virginia to keep its seat, it would need to attract about 19,500 new residents before the 2020 census, assuming the population in all other states remains steady.

But Brace said reversing the trend is unlikely.

“West Virginia has kind of been on the bubble for a while, so the issue is, is there any potential chance of them gaining that seat back? I’m not certain that would be the case,” he said. “Basically, everything is pointing toward what would appear to be less growth in West Virginia than elsewhere, therefore moving further and further away from that magic 435 mark.”

There are 435 voting members in the House of Representatives.

Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail,