Louisiana group urges ‘fair’ redistricting process

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

A group of Louisiana voting-rights advocates are urging lawmakers to commit to four principles organizers say will help to ensure a “fair” redistricting process.

After the federal government’s once-a-decade population census, states create new political boundaries that reflect the results. Fair Districts Louisiana is asking citizens and elected officials to sign a pledge committed to a redistricting process that is transparent and nonpartisan, leading to districts that preserve communities and give each voter “equal representative power.”

“When we approve new district lines this year, every Louisianan should end up with equal representative power, something that we can only achieve with fair districts,” state Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, said in a prepared statement. “Right now, too many voices have been effectively silenced as a result of gerrymandering. As legislators, we have to bring our best selves to the table this year and demonstrate integrity as state leaders.” 

James and state Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, are the first lawmakers to sign the pledge, Fair Districts Louisiana said.

“I support a fair redistricting process that elevates common sense principles over plainly partisan special interests,” Magee said in the prepared statement. “Transparency should be central as we as legislators work through the complex process, and I will support efforts to help my constituents and all voters know and understand what’s happening at each stage.”

Organizers argue the following four principles are important to a fair redistricting process:

• Community: Existing town, city and parish boundaries should be respected. Districts should minimize geographic sprawl.

• Transparency: All redistricting activities should be subject to public records and meeting laws. The process “should include extraordinary and proactive efforts to engage citizens in rural, suburban, and urban areas across all parts of the state, both in-person and virtually.”

• Equality: Districts should not pack a constituency in a single district to reduce its influence in other districts, nor should the power of a constituency be diluted into multiple districts. The racial diversity of the congressional delegation, state Legislature, state Supreme Court and other statewide bodies, and local councils should reflect the makeup of the communities they represent.

• Integrity: “Neither the process nor the outcome should be designed to achieve specific partisan electoral outcomes.”

The U.S. Census Bureau was supposed to deliver the results of the population survey it conducts every 10 years to the president by Dec. 31 but missed the deadline. It is unclear when the results will be available. Louisiana lawmakers still hope to complete redistricting this year; the process is expected to include public meetings and a special redistricting session.

The Republican-majority Louisiana Legislature is in charge of drawing the boundaries, but Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards can veto its plan.