The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

December 21, 2010

Census: Alabama won't gain, lose House seats

From Staff Reports

Republicans in conservative states are likely celebrating congressional gains following the release of 2010 U.S. Census results, but Alabama won’t gain or lose any seats through reapportionment.

Despite no political gains for Alabama, the state’s population increased by more than 300,000 residents — or 7.5 percent — since the last U.S. Census in 2000. However, the state’s growth was less than the 10.1 percent influx between 1990 and 2000.

The spokesman for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Larry Childers, says Alabama's growth has been in line with the national average.

Tuesday’s preliminary census results did not include statistics for individual counties, including Limestone. As of 2009, Limestone had a population of 78,572, up 12,896 from the 2000 Census and 24,437 from 1990.

Dr. Shannon Bridgmon, assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, said she wasn’t surprised by the growth of Southern states, particularly that of Georgia and Florida.

“The economic growth around Atlanta and into Florida merits that (population increase),” she said. “We don’t have the pull of Atlanta as an economic center or the same demographic shift as Florida and Texas, the fact that we’ve maintained our current delegation size is not that unexpected and we should be satisfied with that status.”

Bridgmon said what will be more interesting is when the full census data is released for Alabama and state leaders begin the redistricting process.

“Democrats have been in charge of state Legislature over the last 12 decades, but with Republicans now in control, it will be interesting to see how partisan advantages are reflected,” she said.

The U.S. now has a national population count of 308,745,538, with western and southern states seeing the largest population increases. However, the national population count represents the slowest decade-long growth since the Great Depression.

The declining U.S. growth rate since 2000 is due partly to the economic meltdown in 2008, which brought U.S. births and illegal immigration to a near standstill compared with previous years. The 2010 count represents the number of people — citizens as well as legal and illegal immigrants — who called the U.S. their home on April 1.

Southern states grew at a rate of 14.3 percent, while the West grew at 13.8 percent. The Northeast and the Midwest saw growth at 3.2 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively.

The most populous state was California (37,253,956); the least populous, Wyoming (563,626). The state that gained the most numerically since the 2000 Census was Texas (up 4,293,741 to 25,145,561) and the state that gained the most as a percentage of its 2000 Census count was Nevada (up 35.1 percent to 2,700,551). Only Michigan saw significant declining growth at 0.6 percent.

The new numbers mean reapportionment for the House’s 435 districts in order to make them equal in population. Typically conservative states will see the most gains from the reapportionment, with neighboring Georgia gaining one seat and Florida picking up two. Arizona, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington will also pick up one seat.

Ohio and New York will lose two House seats each, and Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will lose one seat each.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs sought Monday to downplay the possibility that 2010 Census results would be a boon for Republicans. "I don't think shifting some seats from one area of the country to another necessarily marks a concern that you can't make a politically potent argument in those new places," he said.

The American people responded to the 2010 Census mail campaign in historic numbers, according to the Census Bureau. The final mail participation results show that 74 percent of households filled out and mailed back their 2010 Census questionnaire.

"A big thanks to the American public for its overwhelming response to the 2010 Census," U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. "The result was a successful count that came in on time and well under budget, with a final 2010 Census savings of $1.87 billion."

Rebecca Blank, now acting deputy secretary of commerce who has overseen the 2010 Census as under secretary for economic affairs, echoed Locke.

"The 2010 Census was a massive undertaking, and in reporting these first results, we renew our commitment to our great American democracy peacefully, fairly and openly for the 23rd time in our nation's history,” she said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report


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