By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Saying the stakes are high, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday created a group to encourage participation in the 2020 Census as the state faces the possible loss of a congressional seat because of low population growth.
Ivey announced the creation of Alabama Counts! Census Committee during a Capitol news conference. The push comes as the state is suing the federal government over the practice of including immigrants living in the country illegally in Census counts used for reapportionment.
“We need to have maximum participation in the Census,” Ivey said Monday. “If we do not reach maximum participation, we will be at serious risk of losing a congressional seat … and, very importantly, federal funding for Alabama. Both of these are crucial for our state’s future.”
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Alabama’s population grew 2 percent, or a slightly under 100,000 people, between the 2010 Census and 2017. Neighboring Florida, by comparison, grew by more than 2 million people in the same time period. Texas grew by an estimated 3 million people.
That has fueled speculation that Alabama’s seven congressional seats could be reduced to six after the Census, as House seats are shifted to high population growth states to even out representation.
Alabama Department of Economic and Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell will chair the state’s census committee. Boswell said the committee’s goal is to raise Alabamians’ awareness of the importance of participating.
“The stakes are very high in terms of dollars that are coming into the state,” Boswell said.
Historically, the groups undercounted by the Census have been minority households, including African Americans and Hispanics, and in low-income households.
Ivey said she “definitely” believes the committee will do outreach efforts to those groups.
The governor said she supports a lawsuit filed by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in May against the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau. The lawsuit challenges the practice of including immigrants living in the country illegally in U.S. Census counts that are used to determine congressional districts.
“That does not square up with what the attorney general and I see that the Constitution spells out,” Ivey said.
The lawsuit asserts that Alabama is likely to lose a congressional seat, and thus an electoral vote, to a state with a “larger illegal alien population.” Along with the state, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama is a plaintiff. The federal government is scheduled to file its response to the lawsuit next month.
Other states have expressed concern that immigrants will be undercounted in the 2020 Census as a result of a decision by President Donald Trump’s administration to include a question about citizenship status. Seventeen states are seeking to have the question declared unconstitutional, based on fears that it will deter immigrants, including those in mixed-status households, from participating in the Census and dilute representation in those states.