By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
Alabama’s population increased slightly from 2010 to 2019, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. But the official headcount later this year still has state leaders concerned about turnout and the future of Alabama’s seven congressional seats.
Data released this week shows approximately 123,060 more people in Alabama in July 1, 2019 than compared to April 1, 2010. Nationwide, the population grew by 19.5 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Four states – Connecticut, Illinois, West Virginia and Vermont – lost population.
From 2018 to 2019, Census Bureau estimates show Alabama’s population increased by about 15,500.
“It is definitely positive news that the Census Bureau’s population estimates show that Alabama’s population is continuing to grow,” said Mike Presley, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The agency is leading state efforts to increase participation in the census.
“With the reapportionment of congressional seats based on 2020 census data, some projections still have the state potentially losing a seat based on higher population gains in other states. Gov. (Kay) Ivey and ADECA are making every effort to maximize participation because it is important that all Alabamians be counted not only for congressional representation but also to ensure that the state gets its fair share of billions in federal funding for vital community programs. This funding will be allocated to the states over the next 10 years based in some part on the information collected during the census.”
Election Data Services Inc., a a political consulting firm that specializes in redistricting, election administration and the analysis of census data, this week predicted Alabama would be one of 10 states losing seats.
“While the 2019 Census estimate numbers show Alabama keeping their seventh seat by a slim margin of just 18,516 people, projecting the data forward to 2020 would find the state losing the seventh seat by only 10,072 to 19,074 people, depending on the projection model utilized,” Election Data Services said in a written release. “All of the projection models find Alabama just missing the last seat to be apportioned, coming in at seat #436 when there are only 435 seats to hand out.”
Outside of Montgomery, local lawmakers are also concerned about the 2020 census and the possibility of losing a seat.
“The problem is that there are several states that have seen significant growth over the last 10 years,” Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said recently. “Unfortunately, a state like Texas has seen a tremendous influx of migrants and immigrants—both illegal and legal—but who are not citizens. They will all be counted and Texas will pick up more congressional seats. When Alabama loses a seat, it not only loses political strength in Washington, it will also lose millions of dollars in federal funding that is all based on population counts.
“The 2020 census stands to cost our state in terms of both power and money. We need to make sure every person is counted to have the best chance of avoiding this scenario. If we don’t do our best, we know we will lose out.”
The state is spending up to $3 million on an advertising and marketing campaign to make people aware of the importance of the census. Separately, Ivey last month announced $1 million in Legislature-funded grants to 34 agencies and organizations to promote and encourage participation n the count.
Alabama Counts 2020 Census, a committee formed by Ivey in 2018, is also trying to get the word out.
“We will continue to ramp up our Alabama Counts 2020 Census outreach and education efforts at the state level as we move closer to mid-March 2020 when the census will begin,” Presley said. “Much of the efforts will be focused on the mid-March to May period to encourage Alabamians to self-respond to the census with a portion of the funds to be targeted in the summer in those areas of the state where participation may be lower in order to increase the response rate.
“We encourage everyone to respond during the initial period in the spring. The census form should take about five minutes to complete and the data is private and protected by law.”