Louisiana lawmakers begin discussing redistricting

Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – The way districts are drawn determines who is representing an area of the state in the legislature, the courts, and even the state Supreme Court. This year the redistricting of Louisiana is set to take place as it does every 10 years and there could be some big changes on the local level with the shift in the state population.

In the House and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday, the rules of how the redrawing of the districts was laid out in a simple house resolution. It has to be approved by the House and Senate. It is all based on the census data from 2020, which the numbers have not been released yet. The biggest changes could come down to the local level where some precincts could be pushed into different districts.

“So you do have several requirements that all kind of come together with regards to properly drawing district lines,” said John Couvillon, the Founder of JMC Analytics. “The first and foremost one is population. In other words, you can’t have one district that is 80,000 people and another district that is 20,000 people. That violates the constitution. The question is does every district have to be 40,001 people.”

Public input is going to be taken into account as the rules are created for transparency. Some have called for the districts to be more competitive in elections. They feel their incumbent Representative or Senator is too comfortable in their ability to win. Others want to see that seat secured even further.

“You have multiple constraints and or issues that are all taking a co-equal importance,” Couvillon said. “You want to make sure that you, of course, have a substantially equal population in every district. You also have to make sure you have appropriate minority representation… you then have to account for the existing reality, which is that not everybody in Louisiana is 50% for one party.”

The last time the lines were drawn in 2011, the state had a much different population. Now the rural areas have seen a decrease in people living there and the metro areas are seeing a rise.

“Ten years ago the challenge Louisiana had was you had substantial population losses from Hurricane Katrina which meant there was a loss of representation in the New Orleans area,” Couvillon said. “What’s happened since 2010 is you had a rebound of population in those areas which means there’s a question of what if any additional representation Orleans Parish is entitled to.”

During the committee hearing, Representatives made a point to have the Supreme Court districts included in the redrawing process. It sparked some debate of how that will work. The districts have not been redrawn for the state Supreme Court since the 90’s and some believe the court is not an accurate representation of the state demographics.

“The last time the lines were drawn was in 1998. So what you are talking about is 30 year old population data used to draw supreme court districts,” Couvillon said. “So you have vast disparities in population in the Supreme Court districts. Especially since reapportionment plans were drawn in 2011, Supreme Court districts were not among what was redrawn.”

The resolution still has to be debated on the House and Senate floor where these rules could be subject to change or other amendments could be added before the public has their chance to share their thoughts.

The census data for the parishes and precincts is expected to be released in late August. Once the redrawing begins, lawmakers will be hitting the road to meet with the public all around the state to hear their input on how those lines will be drawn. From there a special session will be called to make the final decisions.

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