The 2020 federal census will be critical to Alabama as well as the rest of the states in the nation. The census determines the number of seats a state has in the U.S. Congress and ultimately the number of Electoral College votes each state has for president. Also, importantly, it determines the amount of federal funds states receive.

Alabama is growing incrementally, but not as fast as other states, especially our neighboring states of Georgia and Florida, and certainly not as much as California and Texas. The bottom line is we are projected to lose a congressional district to one of the aforementioned states.

We now have seven seats in Congress, but more than likely will have six following the census next year. We will lose our seat in the 2022 elections.

The U.S. Constitution requires that the census be taken every 10 years and calls for counting the “number of persons” in each state. The question is whether that means counting just U.S. citizens or counting both citizens and illegal aliens.

Obviously, for political reasons, Republicans and the Republican Trump administration in particular, are vehemently in favor of counting only U.S. citizens, while liberals in California want illegals included in the count.

In March 2018, the Trump administration, through Commerce Department Secretary William Ross, ordered the inclusion of the citizenship question on the 2020 census form. Several states then filed suit in federal court to block the question, and in June this year the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that the question should not be asked.

That ruling is bad for Alabama and other Republican states. Although Alabama might have lost a congressional seat anyway, the Supreme Court’s decision hammers the final nail in the coffin. Illegal immigrants in California will be counted and our seat will be ceded to them.

Even though the official census is taken every decade, the U.S. Census Bureau operates daily and gives preliminary updates on census trends. That is how, as early as four years ago, they were projecting the loss of a seat in Alabama. The loss of the citizenship question is just the coup de grace.

The Census Bureau has recently also released new city population estimates that cover the period July 2017 through July 2018. In Alabama, the estimates show that Huntsville continues on a fast track towards becoming Alabama’s largest city, while Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile continue to drift lower. The two major college towns, Tuscaloosa and Auburn, are growing rapidly, as are several cities in Baldwin County.

Although the once Magic City of Birmingham is losing population, the metropolitan area is holding steady. Nevertheless, within the Birmingham-Hoover metro area, Jefferson Countians continue to migrate to the suburbs of Shelby County. That trend is not new and likely will continue.

The same trend is prevalent in the Mobile-Baldwin metro area. The population of Mobile is simply transferring to Baldwin County.

Montgomery continues to steadily lose people. In the last few decades, the population has moved to Autauga and Elmore counties but indications are that some of Montgomery’s flight may be to Auburn.

Tuscaloosa’s growth is significant, primarily due to the growth of the University of Alabama. Tuscaloosa has added 11,000 people since 2010 and now has a population of more than 101,000. Auburn has added 13,900 and has a population of more than 65,000.

When you include the entire Madison-Huntsville-Limestone metropolitan area in the equation, The growth of the Huntsville metropolitan area, which includes Madison and Limestone counties, has been amazing. When you add the entire Tennessee Valley and the Marshall County-Guntersville lake area into the parameters, the growth in north Alabama has been tremendous.

But if you think the Huntsville-Limestone-Tennessee Valley area has grown in the past 10 years, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Given the myriad of recent major economic development and manufacturing announcements for that area, it will grow exponentially over the next decade.

In addition, Sen. Richard Shelby will probably be chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee for three more years, which means the Huntsville area, which includes the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, and numerous cutting-edge technology firms, will benefit from continued federal investment.

Shelby recently announced that the largest FBI headquarters in America will be placed in Huntsville.

Folks, it is obvious that Huntsville and north Alabama will be one of the hottest and most prosperous areas in the nation in the coming years.


Steve Flowers served 16 years in the Alabama Legislature. Readers can email him at