SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Louisiana lawmakers held a public meeting Thursday on the campus of LSU-Shreveport Thursday to give the public the opportunity to weigh in on the redistricting process.
Every ten years, the state Legislature must use the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau for redistricting. The process involves adding or removing districts and redrawing district boundaries where necessary to match population metrics so that each district has an “ideal,” or equitable, number of voters. Under federal law, districts must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity.
“We were very worried whether or not we would maintain our current congressional districts. But we were lucky because we kept our six. So we’re going to maintain our six congressmen,” District 42 State Representative and House & Governmentmmental Affairs Committee Chairman John Stefanski said.
According to Stefanski and Rep. Tammy Phelps, Louisiana was last in filling out census forms, and COVID and natural disasters played a major part in that delay. Now, they’re seeking input on how best to draw district lines based on the new data.
“We want to hear from the public, we want to hear from the citizens of Northwest Louisiana and Shreveport. We want as much public participation to come out as possible and tell us what they want their districts to look like. That’s really the purpose of this,’ Stanfanski said.
Dozens crowded the room and addressed state leaders with their concerns, seeking reassurance that the new maps will result in fair representation.
“We are never receiving fair representation, as far as to state level, and my concern tonight is that when they draw the lines, to think about the fact that we have four and we narrow it down to two,” Belinda Rose said.
“The current map that exists does, in fact, represent well the diversity in the range of our community,” Dr. Timothy Magner with the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce said.
“We need to maintain that representation and the numbers at the congressional level, and at the House, Senate as well,” Lisa Johnson with the Bossier Chamber of Commerce said.
The state of Louisiana has 105 district seats and each district must have a population of at least 44,359 in each district for an ideal map to be drawn.
The committee only focuses on the legislative, judiciary, Public Service Commission, and Board of Secondary and Elementary Education lines but it’s a process that impacts everyone.
“Your school boards, your parish councils, your police jury is going through that, your city council is going through it. Everyone is going through this process of we have to adjust our district so that they meet that ideal population,” Stefanski said.
Thursday’s meeting was one of ten the committee will hold around the state through early January in what is known as a “Redistricting Roadshow” to gather input from the public and inform the map-drawing process. The next meeting will be held in Lafayette next Tuesday at the University of Louisana.
The Legislature will convene a special legislative session in February 2022 to iron out its redistricting plan, which must be completed by the end of the year. Gov. John Bel Edwards has the authority to veto any proposed congressional and legislative district map, and the U.S. Department of Justice is expected to scrutinize all redistricting plans to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
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