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Census 2020: Alabama to hang on to House seats

Alabama will hang on to all seven of its seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next 10 years, according to national and state population numbers released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The 2020 Census found 331 million people in the country and 5.03 million in Alabama. State officials had worried that slow population growth would cause Alabama to lose a House seat, but Census officials say the state will remain untouched.

“Lucky seven, I guess,” said Andy Green, chairman of Calhoun County’s Complete Count Committee, a volunteer group that worked to increase census participation.

In a live-streamed press conference Monday, census officials revealed that the country’s longstanding westward and southward population shift continued into 2020. Texas will pick up two new seats in the House. Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Montana and Washington will each pick up one seat.

California lost a seat, as did Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Overall, the 2020 numbers represent a 7.4 percent growth in the country’s population since 2010 — slower than the growth in the last census, officials said, and the second-slowest growth in U.S. history.

Slow growth was a worry for Alabama officials going into 2020. State officials were confident the state hadn’t lost population, but other states seemed to be adding new residents more quickly.

In the press conference, Census Bureau administrator Ron Jarmin said that both Texas and Florida, while adding seats, didn’t grow as fast as projected.

Other states came close to missing the chopping block. New York would have needed only 89 more people in its count to hang onto the House seat it lost, census officials said.

That sounds a lot like the cautionary tales Alabama officials shared in 2020, when “complete count” committees across the state strove to get people to participate in the census.

Green said it’s too early to say whether the “complete count” push saved a House seat.

“I’d like to think that we played a role in that, but I don’t know,” Green said.

He noted that local numbers for county and city populations have yet to be released.

Redistricting still looms

Before the 2020 count, the possibility of Alabama losing a House seat loomed over political decision-making in the state. Every House seat comes up to re-election every two years, so the loss of a seat could have led to seven sitting members of Congress vying for six seats in a game of musical chairs.

Or five seats, really. The state for the last several elections has had one firmly Democratic House district and six deep-red ones.

Redistricting drama may not yet be over, though. Jacksonville State University political science professor Benjamin Gross noted that districts will still have to be redrawn to reflect shifts in the state’s population. And U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, has already announced a run for U.S. Senate, leaving his district up for grabs.

Power in the House is based on seniority, Gross said, and the Republicans who control redistricting in the Alabama Legislature may want to draw districts in a way that keeps a House veteran in the Huntsville area.

“Huntsville could be one of the areas that is split between districts,” he said.

Much will depend on more detailed local population numbers, which have yet to be released.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.