Alabama, the Yellowhammer State, joined the Union in December 1819, and has participated in all elections since 1820, except 1864. Democrats held strong majorities in Alabama through the 1970s, until the state abandoned Democrats at both the state and federal levels in response to civil rights legislation.
Alabama’s congressional delegation began the 21st century in the 106th Congress with seven members and a 5-2 Republican majority. The political makeup gradually trended to be even more Republican as the seats have been split at a 6-1 Republican majority since 2011. Democrats have not held a majority in Alabama since the 104th Congress from 1995 to 1997. The 6-1 Republican majority is still in place today with Representative Terri Sewell being the lone Democrat in the state’s delegation.
History has shown an overall decrease of Alabama’s influence in Congress. Alabama had ten seats following the 1910 Census, but dropped to nine after the 1930 Census. Following the 1960 Census the number fell to eight, and following the 1970 Census the state now only has seven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Senate seats have told a slightly different story compared to presidential elections and the split in the House of Representatives. Democrats held both seats from the 100th Congress until Senator Richard Shelby switched parties in the 103rd. Afterward, Republicans held both seats from 1997 until midway through the 115th Congress when Democrat Doug Jones replaced Luther Strange in a high-profile race against Republican Roy Moore in 2017. Doug Jones will have to again compete to retain his seat in 2020 in what is forecasted to be a tough contest.
While presidential electoral history in Alabama has been most recently dominated by Republicans, the Democrats once had a strong grip over the state’s governorship and other statewide offices. From 1831 until the end of the 20th century, only four Republicans held the office of governor in Alabama. George Wallace, a Democrat, served the longest as the state’s governor for 16 years over four terms. The current Governor of Alabama is Republican Kay Ivey, former lieutenant governor, and the Lieutenant Governor is Republican Will Ainsworth. The last Democratic governor was Don Siegelman from 1999 to 2003, and the last Democratic Lieutenant Governor was Jim Folsom Jr. who served from 2007 to 2011.
The population of Alabama has grown steadily over time. The population growth rate is at 0.26 percent per year, which makes Alabama the 36th fastest growing state. Positioned in the deep south, Alabama contains ample rural geography. Unlike other “rural states” the population living in these areas makes up 45 percent of the state’s population — meaning this elevated proportion of rural voters can hold significant impact in elections. The split amongst the population regarding political party affiliation must be considered, as 52 percent of adults in Alabama identify as Republicans, 35 percent as Democrats, and 13 percent consider themselves Independents. In 2018, over 60 percent of Alabama voters voted straight ticket.
From 1964 through today, there have only been two exceptions to Republican presidential candidates winning the state. Those two exceptions include George Wallace in 1968, the 45th Governor of Alabama who ran as a member of the American Independent Party, and Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976. Since 2004, Republicans have routinely beaten Democrats in races in Alabama by significant margins. Republican presidential candidates have won Alabama by over 20 points since 2004 with Donald Trump most recently securing a 28 percent margin in 2016.