Published: Jan. 29, 2022
By: Lura Stabiler and Braxton Brown, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE, La. – As the Legislature gets ready to start a special session Tuesday on redistricting, one major focus is whether two of the state’s six congressional districts should be redrawn to give minority residents a better chance to elect two Black congressmen instead of one.
Black leaders and civil rights groups say that is only fair since African Americans make up nearly one-third of the state’s population and the 2020 Census shows that northern Louisiana, which has two white representatives in Congress, has lost population.
But Republicans want to hold onto the five congressional seats they have. And the politics will get even more complicated–and potentially tense–when it comes to redrawing the 105 Louisiana House districts and the 39 districts that send state senators to Baton Rouge.
The Census data shows that the suburban areas around New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette are among the fast-growing areas in the state, and their voters are mostly white and Republican. And most of the state legislative seats now held by Black politicians are in districts that lost some population and will have to be redrawn.
Lawmakers say the population shifts lay a foundation for debate, but political considerations play a huge role as state lawmakers battle each other to maintain their electoral advantages and the parties fight over a congressional seat that could help tilt the balance of power in Washington.
Adding even more intrigue is that Louisiana is the only Deep South state with a Democratic governor who could potentially veto the maps that the Republican-dominated Legislature draws.
As for how all of these considerations will affect how the district lines are redrawn, there is no way to know for sure what will emerge from the three-week special session.
“You have a lot of possibilities,” said demographer Greg Rigamer, a political consultant in New Orleans. “You can configure them in all sorts of ways to meet the minimum requirements,” he said.
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