By Mike Cason

Gov. Kay Ivey announced an initiative today to draw attention to the importance of participation in the 2020 Census.

Ivey signed an executive order to create the Alabama Counts initiative and set up a committee to publicize the census, educate the public on why an accurate count matters and identify hard to count areas.

"It is of the utmost importance that Alabama have maximum participation," Ivey said.

The census is important, in part, because the population count determines levels of federal funding and representation in Congress. Officials have previously said Alabama is at risk of losing one of its seven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives because of the state's relatively slow growth in census estimates.

Starting April 1, 2020, Alabama households should receive a postcard from the Census Bureau asking them to complete their census form online or by phone. They can also call a number to request a paper form.

Ivey named Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell as chairman of the Alabama Counts committee. Boswell said ADECA has already been working with cities and counties to make sure that address lists are accurate in preparation for the census.

Alabama Counts subcommittees will focus on education, faith-based groups, community-based groups, economic development and industry, health care, rural participation and outreach.

In Ivey's executive order, she directed the committee to come up with a census action plan by Aug. 1, 2019.

The Census Bureau reported in 2015 that Alabama's population had grown 1.7 percent since 2010, ranking 36th among states in growth rate.

Alabama's population, 4.86 million, ranked 24th among states but had been surpassed by faster-growing South Carolina at that time.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, sued the Census Bureau in May to challenge the rule that includes immigrants in the country illegally in the population count for purposes of apportioning Congressional seats. Marshall and Brooks contend that Alabama stands to lose a congressional seat if illegal immigrants are counted and that the practice is unconstitutional. Loss of a congressional seat would also cost Alabama one of its nine Electoral College votes.

Ivey said today she supports the lawsuit.

(c)2018 Alabama Media Group, Birmingham