Alabama is governed under a 1901 constitution, as amended; previous constitutions had been adopted in 1819, 1861, 1865, 1868, and 1875. The chief executive of the state is a governor, popularly elected to a 4-year term; a governor may not serve more than two consecutive terms. The state has a bicameral legislature, consisting of a 35-member Senate and a 105-member House of Representatives; all legislators are elected to 4-year terms. The state's highest tribunal is the Supreme Court, made up of 9 judges elected to 6-year terms. The 67 counties of Alabama are each governed by a board of commissioners. The state has 2 senators and 7 representatives in the U.S. Congress. It has 9 electoral votes.

The Democratic party has long dominated Alabama politics at the state and local levels. In contests for U.S. president, however, the Democrats after World War II lost their traditional firm hold on the state's electoral vote. Since 1948 the state's presidential electoral votes have often gone either to the Republicans or to minor-party candidates, as in 1968, when Alabama governor George C. Wallace carried the state as the American Independent party candidate. Two recent governors, Guy Hunt (1987 -93) and Forrest " Fob" James (1995 -99), were both elected as Republicans. U.S. senator Richard Shelby switched from the Democratic to the Republican party a day after the 1994 congressional elections. In 1998, however, Democrat Don Siegelman won the gubernatorial election.