Recent editorials lamented the state’s weak census participation.  The average total self-response and follow-up rate of households in all states is 99%.  Alabama, with a total compliance rate of 95%, is the lowest.  (The self-response rate is only 63%.)  Why?

One explanation is that the Republican party in Alabama has long instilled mistrust of federal programs, especially under Democrat administrations.  Examples include Common Core, the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion, and environmental regulations. 

The state political influencers failed to ensure that Alabamians understand why the census matters – an example being that each resident on average receives via various federal benefits an average of $6000 more than they contribute to federal coffers.  It also means that Alabama could well lose a US representative.

Montgomery seems more interested in sending messages to Washington and kowtowing to Trump than providing factual and important information to the citizens aimed at protecting their interests. Despite the state’s response lag, the leadership did not appear to protest when Trump reduced the census period to end in September.

Alabama is also below national averages in eligible voter turnout.  The Times Daily editorial of August 30 described the groups less likely to vote due to lack of interest, understanding, and sense of responsibility. The reasons above about the census help explain the context. 

Voter suppression is another continuing legacy of the state.  The requirement for party affiliation of candidates and the straight party ticket option tend to deter thoughtful and researched voting – and serve as other methods of ensuring the party in power stays there.

Dan Waterman