BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — State lawmakers wrap up their redistricting roadshow Thursday with a final stop at the state Capitol. They have traveled throughout the state from Shreveport to Thibodaux to collect public opinion on how to redraw the legislative, BESE, and Supreme Court maps. It is required under law to create new maps every 10 years with the release of census data.
A special redistricting session starts Feb. 1 and cannot extend past the 20th. Lawmakers are going to debate several key points while redrawing these maps. The Public Affairs Research (PAR) Council of Louisiana released a recent report explaining some of the challenges legislators are up against in these debates over maps.
Members of the public and organizations of interest have already been sounding the alarm over the need for more minority-majority districts in both state and congressional maps.
“If you want to make an additional African-American district then you’re going to have to go where the African-American voters are and so that might be eating into Garret Graves’ district and it might possibly be grabbing districts from north Louisiana,” PAR President Steven Procopio said.
While districts can be drawn around parties, they can’t be drawn around race. Some outside groups have already threatened lawsuits if it appears the new maps are unfair. They hope to see more competitive districts that could put lawmakers at risk of losing their seats.
PAR’s report states there are several districts in both the state Senate and House that have too many or too few people. The redrawing of those districts could create a ripple effect that impacts all the other districts.
“You have to make equal-sized districts, you can’t stretch them too far and be accused of gerrymandering, you want to have competitive districts,” Procopio said. “The other strike against it is politics. Particularly at the congressional level, there’s going to be a lot of national pressure for Republicans not to give up an additional seat.”
Northern Louisiana saw major population loss, while southeast Louisiana saw a slight increase. This could cause the northern districts to be expanded to take some of the people out of the southern districts that are overpopulated.
Lawmakers will also be redrawing the lines for the state Supreme Court which have been the same since the 1990s. The Court has major population disparities with 477,000 people in the New Orleans-based district and 839,000 in the Baton Rouge area district.
Read PAR’s first and second reports on the redistricting session. A final report is expected before Feb. 1. Catch the full interview with Procopio on This Week in Louisiana Politics at 10:30 a.m. this Sunday.