Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – What will our Congressional districts look like after the 2020 Census?

  Preparations are being made to take the 2020 Census. This process is not just a fun game to spell out demographic changes and interesting tidbits about Americans. It is a very important mandate dictated by the U.S. Constitution. The number of people counted determines how many seats each state has in Congress. Thus, it is taken every 10-years.

  The country has been changing, demographically, over the last decade, as it always has over the course of history. The states of California, Texas, and Florida continue to grow exponentially. All Americans, not just older ones, seek the sun. They like a sunny, warm climate. That is why our neighboring state of Florida is, and has been for decades, America’s growth state.

  Last week I wrote about our 1940s Congressional delegation. At that time, we had nine seats. We lost one after the 1960 census. We lost another after 1980. We are projected to lose another one after this upcoming Census of 2020. We now have seven seats. It is predicted that we will only have six after next year.

  State legislatures are constitutionally designated as the drawers of lines of Congressional districts for each respective state. Currently, we have six Republican seats and one Democratic seat. If we drop from seven to six Congressional districts, how will it shake out?

  The census will reveal that Huntsville and North Alabama have been our growth spots. Alabama’s population continues to move toward the northern tier of the state. Two out of every three Alabamians live in Birmingham, Hoover, and Tuscaloosa north.

  The Black Belt continues to lose population. The census will also reveal quite a disparity in financial prosperity. It will show that the same Black Belt counties are some of the poorest areas of the country, and conversely, Huntsville will be one of the most prosperous. 

  So who will be the winners and losers under Congressional redistricting? You start with one premise: you have to have one majority-minority African American district. The federal courts have mandated this. Therefore, Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s district is sacred. It now is very large, geographically. It will become even larger. The district will take in most of the African American population in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Montgomery, and the entire Black Belt stretching from south of Birmingham and Tuscaloosa all the way to Mobile. It will be a big geographic district and be numbered district six rather than seven.

  This leaves us with five Republican districts and six incumbent Republicans. So who will get the short end of the stick? A cursory look says the odd person out will be Martha Roby in the Second District.

  However, our current delegates have already come up with a plan to save everybody. Mo Brooks, the Congressman from Huntsville, will choose to move up or out in 2022. He is assuming that U.S. Senator Richard Shelby will retire at age 88. Therefore, Brooks would see his fast-growing Tennessee Valley district divided and delved out in a plan that would expand the districts north, and that would comply with the growth pattern.

  Our senior Congressman, Robert Aderholt, would opt to stay in Congress rather than risk a run for the U.S. Senate. This is a very wise and prudent move for him and the state. He has over 24 years in seniority and is in line to be Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He would move north and pick up part of the Huntsville area and cut Gadsden loose. Mike Rogers would move north and pick up Gadsden and all of northeast Alabama, which would be a more natural fit for him with his native Anniston area.

  Rogers’ move north would allow him to abandon Auburn-Opelika, which in turn would allow Roby’s district to exist primarily like it is with the population centers of East Montgomery, Elmore, Autauga, and the Wiregrass and Dothan, and that district would add Auburn-Opelika.

  The current 6th District of Jefferson-Shelby represented by Gary Palmer would remain essentially the same. Its upscale suburbs would make it one of the most Republican in the nation.

  The last district seat of Mobile-Baldwin would remain intact and would still be District 1. However, the tremendous growth of Baldwin would require that the district only contain Mobile and Baldwin. The cadre of rural counties north of Mobile that is currently in the District would have to be cut loose and would probably go to the Black Belt district.

  The current 1st District Congressman, Bradley Bryne, is running for the U.S. Senate in 2020. However, his replacement will be a conservative Republican.

  About the author: Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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