Election, census will top 2010 headlines

Published 2:29 am Wednesday, May 6, 2009

By By Steve Flowers
Next year will be a big election year in Alabama with all the constitutional offices and the entire legislature on the ballot. It will be especially interesting with an open Governor’s race. It will also be an important watershed year because of the census.
Our constitution calls for there to be a headcount every decade. This census is to ensure that all Americans and all Alabamians are accounted for and given equal representation in Congress and the Legislature. Each congressional and legislative seat is required to have the same number of people with very little deviation. The census takers will be out taking the count during 2010 while the elections are being conducted. Therefore, the redistricting or reapportionment of the legislative and congressional districts will not be redrawn until after the census figures are taken.
The power of drawing both congressional and legislative districts rests in the State Legislature. Therefore, you will see a concerted effort by the Republican Party to take control of the Alabama Legislature. However, it will be an uphill battle for the GOP because the Democrats have a healthy majority in both the House and the Senate. If the Democrats retain control of the Legislature they will have control of the pencil when Alabama’s legislative and congressional lines are drawn in 2011.
There has been a constant concern that there would be a move to enact an early redistricting plan by the Democratic majority in the State Senate since they organized in 2007. The Senate majority orchestrated a rule change that would allow them the opportunity to cut off debate and cloture with a simple majority vote to pass a reapportionment bill. However, there has been too much controversy and chaos over mundane issues for there to be a possibility to pass anything as significant and controversial as a reapportionment plan.
Alabama’s population is growing. However, we are not growing as fast as some of our sister states, especially those in the Sunbelt. States like Florida, Texas and Arizona are eclipsing the rest of the nation with a population explosion. The continued migration of northern Rust Belt retirees seeking a warmer place to retire has bolstered this growth. Georgia is gaining because of the unparalleled growth of the metropolis of Atlanta.
How does this impact us politically? Throughout the first part of the decade it appeared that we might lose a congressional seat. As late as 2006 the Census Bureau projected that we were on course to lose a seat. However, we have had a growth spurt over the last few years and the census office now predicts that we will now keep our same seven seats in Congress. The only way we could lose is if we get counted out by the over counting of illegal Hispanic immigrants.
There is widespread speculation that the Obama administration will acquiesce to a Democratic plan to estimate the population rather than actually counting people validly. If the Democrats can inflate the Hispanic population in Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida and California, they can change the entire Electoral College map and tilt it in their favor for decades.
The Electoral College, which elects the President, gives each state the same number of seats they have in Congress in the electoral count for President. An expansion of the Hispanic population in Colorado and Florida would move them from swing state status to leaning Democratic. This move would entrench California as a hardcore blue state. California already holds 44 seats in Congress. This gives the Golden State 12 percent of the entire U.S. population with a concurrent 12 percent of the seats in Congress and 12 percent of the electoral votes needed for President.
This move to estimate the population may be more than just conjecture. The recent resignation or non acceptance by conservative New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg of the Secretary of Commerce position was said to be because he was philosophically opposed to the Democratic stimulus spending bill. However, political insiders suggest that he believed the Obama administration was going to remove the Census Bureau from the Commerce Department in order to politicize and take control of the impending 2010 census.
The taking of the census is an important political issue. It is not only critical in deciding how many representatives a state gets in Congress, but also how federal dollars are spent based on population figures.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be contacted at www.steveflowers.us.

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