In a process that will impact every state-level and congressional election in Louisiana over the next decade, lawmakers gathered on Friday for the first of many redistribution sessions in which lawmakers draw new maps that determine voters to include in their districts and other statewide political boundaries.
The Legislature’s Joint Government Affairs Committee began the meeting by reviewing the rules and demographics it will use to attract new statewide political seats for Congress, the state legislature, the Civil Service Commission, the State Supreme Court and the State Council for Primary and Secondary Education (BESE).
Patricia Lowrey-Dufour, the committee’s senior research analyst, told lawmakers they should expect significant changes in their districts.
“As you can see from this map, the chances of a district not being affected by the redistribution are probably zero, so just be aware,” she said. “I want you to know that redistribution is about change, and as you can see if you look left and right for your neighboring neighborhoods, you can see that there will have to be substantial changes.”
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Lowrey-Dufour was referring to the maps she presented showing the population disparities between the State House districts. The recent 2020 census revealed significant population changes across the state with many rural areas are losing residents to urban and suburban districts. Such changes have resulted in misallocation – a term used to describe inequitable political constituencies, in which some have significantly larger populations than others.
One of the main rules for redistribution is that districts should have broadly equal populations with a deviation of no more than 5% for state districts except Supreme Court districts. Legislation that would have required equal populations and expanded the number of state Supreme Court districts to provide greater representation of minorities did not succeed last session. The rules are also slightly different for congressional districts, which should be as uniform as possible but do not follow a strict percentage rule like that which applies to state districts.
Of Louisiana House’s 105 districts, 29 had too many voters and 37 had too few voters, meaning 46 will need to be redesigned.
And redrawing a single district has a ripple effect on the entire map as it changes the boundaries of adjacent districts, Lowrey-Dufour said.
Likewise, the Louisiana Senate will also experience many changes. Of the 39 Senate constituencies, 10 had too many voters and 15 had too few voters, Lowrey-Dufour said.
But some of the biggest disparities are found in the state’s Supreme Court districts, where all except District 2 fall outside the acceptable population gap – some up to 25%. .
Half of the eight districts of BESE also have too few or too few inhabitants, and one of the five districts of the Civil Service Commission has too large a gap.
Of the six congressional districts, three have too few or too few inhabitants. Although they are not required to meet a certain percentage, federal law requires them to be substantially equal in population.
In addition to attracting equal populations, state legislators are expected to take into account other factors such as minority representation. Although blacks make up nearly a third of the state’s population, only one of Louisiana’s six congressmen is Black and only one state Supreme Court judge is Black.
Historically, both in Louisiana and in other states, redistribution has at times led to unfair representation of minority groups and to the empowerment of the incumbent political party through gerrymandering – a border-drawing tactic. policies for the benefit of a party or group.
The GOP has a super-majority in the Louisiana Senate but not in the House, and Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has the right to veto all political district maps passed by the legislature. This means Democrats should have some ability to push back political cards that favor Republicans, even if Republicans control both legislative chambers.
Peter Robins-Brown, of the Louisiana Power Coalition, said he hopes lawmakers will choose more competitive ridings – that is, ridings that are not dominated by the same candidate or party every time. electoral cycle.
“Redistribution plays a central role in how our policy works, or whether our policy works at all,” he said. “We live in an extremely politically divided era, and Louisiana’s current political maps fuel that division by locking politicians and political parties into extremely secure seats, with little or no real competition.”
The process should be completed early next year.