Answers for the future: Census to shape area politics for next decade

Answers for the future: Census to shape area politics for next decade
Posted Feb 28th, 2020

How many Alabamians answer a 10-question survey in the next few months could vastly shape the political future of Pike and Crenshaw counties as officials conduct the 2020 census.

Congress has organized a census every 10 years since 1790, and those surveys have always helped determine how much representation each state receives in the federal government, says Dr. Steven Taylor, a political science professor and dean of Troy University’s College of Arts and Science. Following each census, Congress determines if the number of U.S. House of Representatives members each state receives will be adjusted in an effort to ensure each district has roughly the same population and representation.

Since Congress shapes several policies for our nation’s government, each census “can have a profound effect” on the country’s political future, Taylor says. The 2020 census may be the most critical in Alabama’s history, though.

Since the early 1970s, Alabama has sent seven Congressmen to the U.S. House of Representatives due to its population, but most projections indicate that number will drop to six following this year’s count, Taylor says. That is because Alabama’s population growth in the last decade has not matched the growth rates of some other Southern states like Georgia and Florida.

If the drop were to occur, Alabama’s influence in Washington, D.C., could wane, especially since the loss of a representative also results in the loss of an electoral vote in future presidential elections, Taylor says.

Additionally, the loss of a representative and the accompanying district would result in Alabama’s remaining congressional districts growing in size. The redrawing of the districts could have a major impact on the 2nd Congressional District — especially Pike and Crenshaw counties, since both lie close to other congressional districts.

“Each district line has to be shifted,” Taylor says. “As you reconfigure districts, you have to consider the population anchor points. Montgomery is a big player. Mobile is a big player.

“It certainly could change the dynamics of what is important to the district. Montgomery has different issues than Mobile’s issues.”

Since the early 1970s, Pike and Crenshaw Counties have occupied a space in the 2nd Congressional District, which has elected a Republican in every election since then except one. Crenshaw County lies on the border of the 7th Congressional District, a Democratic stronghold.

In addition to representation, the census also determines where federal funding for 132 different programs goes, Taylor says. A strong census participation rate would ensure communities receive the funding and the representation they are rightfully entitled to, says David Bailey, South Alabama Electric Cooperative’s general manager.

“We encourage all of our members to answer the census questions when they have the opportunity to, beginning in mid-March,” Bailey says. “An accurate count ensures we have a strong voice in Washington, D.C., and ensures our communities receive the federal funding support that our education, health care and transportation systems deserve.” 

Key census information

  • What: 2020 U.S. Census
  • Who: all people residing in the United States
  • When: beginning in mid-March online at respond.census.gov or by mail beginning in early April. Those who have not responded online or by mail by April 30 will receive a home visit from a U.S. Census Bureau employee sometime after May 1.

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