Congressional seat may hang in the balance in Alabama’s lawsuit over Census count of illegal immigrants

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Gov. Kay Ivey is urging Alabamians to go online and be counted for the upcoming Census. Ivey pointed out that robust population figures mean federal dollars to Alabama.

But, the upcoming count is also the subject of a number of court battles over who will – and should – be counted.

Much of the focus is whether the Census should include illegal immigrants.

Every 10 years the U.S. counts its population. And generally, the Census Bureau tries to count everyone who lives in the United States. But, that has consequences, for federal money and congressional representation. There are only 435 U.S. House seats and they are apportioned based on state populations.

With that in mind, the State of Alabama and Huntsville-area U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks are suing the federal government, trying to prevent a count that includes illegal immigrants.

In June, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall told a congressional committee, Alabama wants to see change.

“The state of Alabama filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging our expected loss of representation in Congress, and in the Electoral College, as a result of the Census Bureau’s counting of illegal aliens for purposes of apportionment,” Marshall said.

Projections show using the current counting system Alabama will lose a congressional seat, along with several northeastern states. Arizona, Florida and Texas, among others, will gain seats.

“To be counted in the Census a person must meet the Census Bureau’s “usual residence” definition,” Marshall said. “That is anyone who has a U.S. residence --where they live and sleep most of the time.”

Brooks says the issue is vital to North Alabama’s interests.

"If illegal aliens are counted, not only does that undermine and dilute the 'one man, one vote' and equal protection rights of Alabama citizens,” Brooks said. “It also means Alabama will likely lose an appropriator or House Armed Services Committee member, either of which reduces Redstone Arsenal's influence in Congress and puts our defense and space jobs at greater risk.”

Marshall says Alabama would keep its current congressional seats if illegal immigrants weren’t counted in the Census.

“The State of Alabama’s lawsuit asks the court to declare the residence rule unlawful, “Marshall said. “We assert the apportionment of House of Representatives-Electoral College based on the Census data counts illegal aliens in population figures that are unconstitutional because it violates the principle of equal representation.”

The Trump Administration seems sympathetic. It has already included a citizenship question on the census. Though that is also being challenged by a number of states in court.

The federal government has until sept. 13 to respond to the Alabama lawsuit. And it’s possible, it won’t oppose what Brooks and Marshall are seeking.

Meanwhile, San Jose, California and Seattle’s King County have filed motions seeking to oppose the Alabama suit.

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