By Steve Flowers
Well folks, the final census figures are in from last year’s 2020 nose count. The census is taken every 10 years to determine the lines and boundaries of congressional and legislative districts. However, the census reveals a lot more information about us as a state and nation than just how many of us there are. It paints a picture of who we are as people and what we look like.
The most recent census unveils an America much different than those of us who were born in the 1950s and are referred to as the “Baby Boomer” generation. We are one diverse country. Indeed, we are a true melting pot. The United States is now less than 60% white/Caucasian — 57% to be exact. The black/African American population has basically remained the same at about 12% of the population. The most remarkable figure is that 20% of our population identifies as Hispanic. The Asian population has doubled over 10 years from 3% to 6% percent. It is a new America.
What do these numbers portend and what is the story for Alabama? First of all, we did an amazing job on our count. The Census Bureau has remarked that Alabama was one of the five best states in America when it came to counting our people. We actually came up with 103,000 more people than what was projected. Gov. Kay Ivey’s efforts deserve some credit for this success.
The most significant fact in our successful count is that we saved a congressional seat. It had been projected for the last five years that we were going to lose a congressional seat from seven to six in Congress. We will fortunately keep seven. This will make the legislature’s job much, much easier when they meet in about a month to draw the lines.
After the reapportionment session, we will still probably have six Republican congressmen and one Democratic member of Congress. In fact, when the members of the legislature begin drawing the lines, they will begin with that lone Democratic seat of Congresswoman Terri Sewell. She and that district will come first when dividing up people for two reasons. One is that Alabama is still under the eye of the Justice Department by virtue of the 1965 Voting Rights Act whereby we must have at least one majority-minority district. Because the Black Belt region of the state has lost significant population, she will have to take in a larger area. She will probably go all the way from Birmingham to Mobile. She will pick up a large chunk of Tuscaloosa and almost all of Montgomery, as well as at least three to five more sparsely populated Black Belt counties on the way between Birmingham and Mobile. As projected, the Black Belt counties lost population and the growth in the state was in fast growing Republican leaving counties such as Baldwin, Shelby, Jefferson, Lee and especially in the Huntsville / Madison / Limestone area.
The second reason that Sewell will get deference is that she is our only Democratic congressperson. With the U.S. House of Representatives being majority Democratic, as well as the White House, Sewell is our only conduit to the majority party. In addition, she is on a fast leadership track in Congress and sits on the all-important House Ways and Means Committee.
Huntsville’s amazing growth is the remarkable story of the census in Alabama. Huntsville is now Alabama’s largest city. It far surpasses Birmingham. In fact, Birmingham lost 5% of its population. There is essentially a tie between Montgomery and Birmingham as to who is second. Montgomery held its own. Huntsville city grew by 20%. The metro area by over 40%. The Birmingham/Hoover metro area is still by far the largest metropolitan area. The suburban cities of Hoover, Vestavia Hills and Trussville grew substantially. Hoover, itself, grew by 13%.
After the Madison (Huntsville) / Limestone area, the fastest growing county in the state is Baldwin County. While Daphne had significant growth, the darling in the group is Fairhope, which grew by 47%. Lee County and Auburn grew by whopping numbers.
What does this mean politically? These growth counties of Baldwin, Madison and Lee will see increased Republican representation in the legislature and the Jefferson/Shelby suburbs will hold their own. It will be hard to not increase the super majority Republican control of the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the legislature. Steve may be reached at: www.steveflowers.us.