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Special Issue on Redistricting, Spring 2011 - A Project of the Coalition for Louisiana Progress


The 1991”Zorro District”
did not meet constitutional

Inform Engage Mobilize
Welcome In This Issue
Redistricting shapes the contours of our democracy.
It is the skeleton that all of our government is built 04 Progressive Answers for
around. Yet, the process of redistricting is deeply Louisiana’s Redistricting
flawed, plagued by political maneuvering and the Dilemma
influence of special interests. As our legislators enter
their special session to decide how we will elect our By Ryan Mick, MEd, JD
future representatives, the articles in this special issue
of Louisiana Progress provide in depth analyses of the
pitfalls of redistricting and recommend solutions so
that through this imperfect process, we can arrive at a
redistricting plan that reflects the will of the people of

At Louisiana Progress, we encourage all citizens to 08 Redistricting Revisited

keep a close eye on the competing redistricting plans By Ryan Mick, MEd, JD
wending their way though the legislature and to ask
their elected representatives to support fair plans that
prioritize the people of Louisiana and their right to
elect officials who represent their concerns. Only
through careful monitoring and zealous advocacy an
we ensure that all of Louisiana’s citizens get what they
deserve---a fair plan where the voice of each voter is
heard and carries equal weight.
15 In Search of Fairness:
For more background on the constitutional and legisla- Assessing Redistricting
tive framework that guides the redistricting process, Proposals
including a discussion of the Voting Rights Act, other
relevant federal statutes, and state law, please visit our By Joshua Stockley, PhD and
website at Dr. John Sutherlin

Matt Bailey, Melissa Flournoy, Genevieve Pope

The Louisiana Progress Journal provides a forum

for our authors to express their views on how best to
move Louisiana forward. The opinions expressed in
the articles are those of the authors alone and do not
express the views of the editorial board, Louisiana
Progress, or the other authors.
4 Redistricting in Louisiana Louisiana Progress

Progressive Answers for

Louisiana’s Redistricting Dilemma
First published spring 2010

By Ryan Mick, MEd, JD

“The polarization and poisonous atmosphere

that have infected the House of Representa-
tives for the past two decades or more can be
traced in large part to the manner in which
district lines are drawn in most states.”
– Les Francis, former Executive Director of the
Democratic National Committee

It is difficult to deny that the major population growths

and shifts in our country as well as the tragedy of Hur-
ricane Katrina will result in the loss of a Congressional
seat for Louisiana in the 2010 census process. Not only
has Louisiana lost population, but many residents who
have remained in Louisiana have moved away from 10 years so that “Representatives [will] be apportioned
the once densely populated New Orleans region to among the several States according to their respective
other parts of the state. These changes in population no numbers, counting the whole number of persons in
doubt make Louisiana’s likely redistricting process one each State, excluding Indians not taxed.” Redistricting,
that has the potential to be either highly politicized or on the other hand, is the end result of the reapportion-
highly progressive and transformative for the better- ment process. The procedure of redistricting allows
ment of all Louisiana. Since the power of the redistrict- states to remap Congressional and state legislative
ing process is principally in the hands of Louisiana’s districts to reflect population changes from the cen-
legislators, it is their opportunity to shine as an exam- sus data. States that experience significant population
ple to others states or to remain an engine of politick- growth or loss will face the increase or loss in Con-
ing so reminiscent of prior redistricting efforts. gressional representation and thus will be required to
redraw their maps to reflect the changes in population

Defining Characteristics of
Reapportionment and Redistricting The Practice of Redistricting in
To understand redistricting, one must first understand
reapportionment. Reapportionment is the process by So, how does the practice of redistricting occur in the
which Congressional seats are redistributed according Louisiana? Like 27 other states, Louisiana’s legislature
to census data. The United States Constitution and the is solely responsible for the redistricting process, which
14th Amendment require that data be collected every is loosely defined by state House and Senate rules. As
Louisiana Progress Redistricting in Louisiana 5
one might guess, this system poses conflicts of interest ing only invites protectionism, gerrymandering, and
and provides for very little accountability. What makes political pandering all at the expense of a fair division
the situation even more corruptible is the fact that the of the people of Louisiana.
public knows so little about redistricting and reappor- Concerning gerrymandering, it is evident that in states
tionment. where the legislature has control of the redistricting
process there are consistent efforts made to gerryman-
A relevant, but non-scientific example of this fact der districts, thereby eliminating districts controlled by
might help explain what I mean: Before drafting this the minority political party. In Georgia, this happened
article, I made conversation with a highly-educated after Republicans took control of the state government
colleague about the ramifications of redistricting. in 2004. Republicans redrew the 2005 redistricting
Unfortunately, she did not wholly understand the reap- completed by a Democratic legislature, which resulted
portionment or redistricting process or why this issue in the loss of two more Democratic seats in the 2006
was significant to her as a citizen of Louisiana. She not midterm elections. Of course, Democrats are not
only has a degree in political science, but also holds blameless either: Under the leadership of Steny Hoyer,
highly coveted master’s degree from a major public Democrats in Maryland used redistricting to oust two
policy school. Though she is politically active, it seems Republicans in 2002.
the inner workings of the redistricting process remain
reserved only for those savvy enough to be entrenched Louisiana Family Forum’s Redistricting Map is a per-
in our state’s politics. fect example of gerrymandering and politicking for the
benefit of partisan interests.
However, to say there is absolutely no accountabil-
ity in Louisiana would be imprecise. Because of the Though the gerrymanding and protectionism are
state’s voting rights history, Louisiana and 15 other major concerns in providing fair and well-represented
states must have their redistricting maps approved by Congressional districts, it is the politics and pandering
the Department of Justice as codified in the Voting that might hurt the public most – and Louisiana is not
Rights Act. Moreover, the Voting Rights Act requires immune. Early in 2009, the Louisiana Family Forum,
that Louisiana also include at least one
majority-minority district within the
state’s redistricting map. While this no
doubt ensures minority voice, it also
further exacerbates the political nature
of redistricting, creating “token districts”
or racial minority “lumping,” where
those responsible for redistricting fit
all minorities into one district without
regard to geography or sensible district

Legislative Sole-Control of
Redistricting Too Flawed To
Is the Louisiana legislature the appropri-
ate body to determine its Congressional
and statewide districts? I would argue
that the current system of redistrict- Louisiana Family Forum Redistricting Map
6 Redistricting in Louisiana Louisiana Progress

a conservative interest group, released a redistricting their legislatures for redistricting have tried to create
plan based on its view of how Louisiana should be independent redistricting commissions or to expand
divided. the duties of existing state commissions (used for other
purposes) to include the task of redistricting.”
As Roll Call reports, the “map combines most of the Many redistricting reform advocates cite Arizona’s
majority-black 2nd district based in New Orleans with redistricting reform movement in 2000 as the superior
most the south-central 3rd district, which is currently template. Under Arizona’s new system of redistrict-
represented by Louisiana’s lone House Democrat, ing, a commission is formed by appointments recom-
Rep. Charlie Melancon.” On its face, the map appears mended by the judicial appointment boards in the
acceptable; it fulfills the Voting Rights Act require- state. “Commission maps are not subject to review by
ment of a majority-minority district and acknowledges the Legislature or veto by the governor, although they
the shifts in population caused by Hurricane Katrina. may be challenged in the courts on Voting Rights Act
However, upon further scrutiny, it is easy to see the grounds.” Arizona also has imposed strict rules on the
politicking of the Louisiana Family Forum. Here’s why: redistricting commission: the new maps should favor
“Republican Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao currently holds competitive districts between parties and not consider
the 2nd district seat, but Democrats and most unbi- places of residence for incumbents or candidates.
ased political observers believe the 64 percent black
district will revert to Democratic control next cycle.” Many states are now pursuing alternatives to legisla-
ture-based redistricting. Though Arizona’s model may
Simply put, this map combines a prospective Demo- appear to be an extreme solution to the problems of
cratic (and majority-minority) district with the current gerrymandering and politicking in the redistricting
Democratic District, thereby eliminating the possibil- process, it no doubt ensures that new district maps
ity of a new Democratic representative for the state of are drawn with the public, not the politician in mind.
Louisiana. It is the politicking of interest groups such So, how can Louisiana move forward with progressive
as the Louisiana Family Forum that is the most un- redistricting reform?
nerving. The organization has a strong voting bloc and
can use this as leverage with a legislature that is solely How it Should Be Done in Louisiana
in control of redistricting. Basically, fair and proper re-
districting as it stands now in Louisiana is endangered The Public Affairs Research Council (PAR) probably
by the gerrymandering protectionists on one side and has the best recommendations for Louisiana with re-
political agendas on another. With this double-edged gards to redistricting reform. It outlined these recom-
sword, isn’t it about time Louisiana embraces a new mendations in a recent report: “Redistricting 2010:
system? Reforming the Process of Distributing Political Power.”
Recommendations include:
Why Should We Reform
• Assign the task of congressional and legislative
Though Louisiana places its redistricting power with redistricting to an independent commission, whose
the legislature, other states use varied systems to powers, duties and redistricting principles are
remove some of the politicking from the redistricting firmly established in law.
process. Across the country, 13 states give redistricting
power to appointed boards or commissions, 8 other • Require all commission meetings, documents,
states use such commissions in an advisory or backup communications and work product to be subject to
role, and one state grants the power of redistricting to Louisiana’s open meetings and public records laws,
nonpartisan legislative staff. These changes in the re- as well as posted and archived on the commission’s
districting are not random, but part of a growing trend Web site.
of states removing legislatures from the redistricting
process. “Since 2005, 18 of the 28 states that use only • Begin the assignment of redistricting power imme-
Louisiana Progress Redistricting in Louisiana 7
diately to ensure a ready and able commission for your new districts may stretch across the state, or con-
the next redistricting cycle. sist both urban and rural populations, or be comprised
of only one race.
PAR’s recommendations hit our state’s redistricting
problems right on the head in several significant ways. At the final stage of the game, you are asked to com-
First, they task a body other than the legislature with plete the redistricting task without regard to the
developing a redistricting plan. This works to eliminate politicians or political parties. It is at this point that the
both the gerrymandering and partisan politics that game becomes simple. You only need to draw correctly
legislative control of the redistricting process so often apportioned districts. In doing so, you act without
creates. interference from the legislature or the governor, and
are able to create districts that properly recognize geo-
Second, the recommendations advocate for an open- graphic and social differences.
door redistricting process. Redistricting is one of the
most important governmental processes in ensuring The Redistricting Game is both tedious and comical,
the public is well-represented by the best political seemingly a perfect parallel the politics of redistrict-
minds. On top of this, because the public has such a ing in America. This comedy is also the tragedy of the
limited knowledge of redistricting, there is an even game; redistricting should not be a fit of fancy that
greater urgency to keep the redistricting process requires plotting and manipulation to win. The true
public; it will no doubt grow public knowledge on this win for Louisiana is approaching redistricting with a
important issue. progressive eye; one that looks beyond political protec-
tionism and party lines, and instead focuses on what
Finally, PAR recommends taking action now so that really matters: the people of Louisiana. We shouldn’t be
Louisiana will be prepared for the upcoming process. creating Congressional districts that carve up urban ar-
Our redistricting process starts officially after we eas like meat to be served, and we shouldn’t be drawing
receive census data, which can be no later than March districts without regard to the social and geographic
2011. If Louisiana wants to have progressive change in differences in our state.
its redistricting process next year, the legislature needs
to act now. Will change be easy? Not necessarily. Even if Louisiana
embraces a commission-based redistricting system, it
Conclusion doesn’t guarantee the commission’s success in avoiding
legal challenges or partisan politics. It is, however, a
In researching this article, I came across an Internet giant step in the right direction.
game created by the Annenberg Center entitled “The
Redistricting Game.” In the game you are assigned the
role of the redistricting coordinator for your politi-
cal party and are given a task to redraw your districts
in specific ways: you’re either trying to gain a seat More Info on Redistricting:
for your party, preserve incumbents’ seats from both
parties, or create a seat for a new majority-minority • Americans for Redistricting Reform
district. • The Center for Voting & Democracy
• Brennan Center for Justice
As you play, you’re able to see the griping of repre-
sentatives who may lose their seats and you might be • Redistricting 2010: Reforming the
sent back to redraw the districts if the legislature or Process of Distributing Political Power
governor does not like how you reapportion districts.
To succeed in pleasing everyone, you typically have
to mangle a Congressional district in such a way that
8 Redistricting in Louisiana Louisiana Progress

Redistricting Revisited
By Ryan Mick, MEd, JD

A few months ago I penned an article for Louisiana independent commissions in states like Arizona and
Progress briefly outlining the redistricting process as California.
well as some progressive solutions for ensuring that
our own process here in Louisiana is equitable and Unfortunately for the citizens of Louisiana, the legis-
forward-thinking. Ultimately, I argued that the Louisi- lature failed to embrace the suggestions of PAR, and
ana Legislature should follow the recommendations of in some cases, certain legislators even criticized the
the Public Affairs Research Council (PAR), suggesting concept of independent commissions for Louisiana’s
that the legislature create an independent commission redistricting process.1 As a result of this failure to
to determine political districts in Louisiana. This, of launch, we are faced with the harsh reality of the 2010
course, is not a novel idea to PAR, but a well-thought-
out plan based on the successful implementation of sion_no.html
Louisiana Progress Redistricting in Louisiana 9
census results; we must lose a Congressional District in African American citizens, it does not necessitate
our redistricting process, and we must face this, as well that all African Americans, typically Democratic
as multiple other levels of redistricting, at the will of voters, be lumped into a single District at the cost
the legislature. So, where do we go from here? of creating a state with politically, as opposed to
culturally, homogenous Congressional Districts.
There are three things we can do at this juncture to at
least venture close to a fair redistricting process: 3. Finally, we as citizens of Louisiana must continue
to remain steadfast in advocating for legislation
1. First, we can push our legislative leaders to be to create an independent commission for redis-
transparent about the redistricting process. tricting. This is the best step Louisiana can take to
Though redistricting is in the hands of the Louisi- ensure a fair and equitable process of redistricting
ana Legislature and not an independent commis- for all of Louisiana’s citizens in future redistricting
sion, that does not mean it needs to be a mysteri- efforts.
ous process or one riddled with impropriety.
Transparency is Imperative
2. Second, we need to be very aware of and cautious
about the creation of any minority-majority Con- Louisiana has little time to complete the redistrict-
gressional District. Though the Voting Rights Act ing process. In fact, Louisiana has one of the shortest
requires Louisiana to give a voice to Louisiana’s turnaround times for redistricting out of any state. A
10 Redistricting in Louisiana Louisiana Progress

special session to adopt redistricting plans will con- are geographically, if not culturally, homogeneous. 3
vene March 20 and must end no later than April 13. This, of course, is not an unreasonable request. In fact,
With the annual legislative session set to begin April geographically compact, culturally homogeneous dis-
25, lawmakers will have no time to waste in developing tricts are the ideal of any redistricting process accord-
their proposal for review by the United States Depart- ing to leading thought on redistricting reform.
ment of Justice, the next logical step for Louisiana in
the redistricting process. Why then, if it is the will of the people and the most
logical of potential outcomes, are such districts so
Most are familiar with the old adage, “haste makes rare in legislatively controlled redistricting processes?
waste.” A tight turnaround for Louisiana could mean Simply put, creating these types of districts makes our
that redistricting will come and go before the citizens political leaders vulnerable in the newly created dis-
of the state have an opportunity to learn about the tricts. What politician would support modifying her
process and make their opinions known. Now, to be own district in a way that would require her to raise
fair, the Louisiana House of Representatives has made more political capital and run a much harder campaign
some efforts to engage the public in the redistrict- without any guarantee of winning? As a politician, it is
ing process. As of this moment, they have not only simpler to support protective districts in a quiet special
launched a website with information about Louisiana session of the legislature than to unabashedly support
redistricting,2 but they have also gone on a self-pro- reform in a public forum.
claimed “road show” across the state to hear feedback
from the citizenry about what redistricting should It is because of this that we need to be extra vigilant
look like in Louisiana. What did they hear in these with our leaders and that this process needs to be fully
feedback sessions? Namely, residents have expressed a transparent and well-documented to the public. It is
common philosophy: they want compact districts that only then that we can hold our leaders accountable for
their decisions.
Giving the Minority a Real Voice
When creating new Congressional Districts, Louisiana,
as a Southern state, is held to an extra obligation. That
obligation, the Voting Rights Act, requires the legisla-
ture to draw Louisiana’s Congressional Districts in a
way that gives African Americans a fair opportunity
to be represented in their government. In the past,
this mandate has taken shape in Louisiana through
creating minority-majority districts, where one Con-
gressional District in Louisiana contains primarily
African American voters who then tend to elect an
African American candidate. This district is currently
the Louisiana Second Congressional District, which
contained 60-65% African American voters before the
devastation of Hurricane Katrina. This minority-ma-
jority District made sense in that 2000 census results
showed that 25-30% of all Louisiana minority voters
lived in Orleans Parish, which is where the Second
District is primarily located.
Change in population by Congressional District based
on 2010 Census data. 3
Louisiana Progress Redistricting in Louisiana 11
eral government nor the Voting Rights Act has ever
As evidenced by the 2010 census data, Hurricane Ka- required that Southern states create “supermajorities”
trina has changed this reality for Louisiana. Now, East of minority voters in any minority-majority district.
Baton Rouge Parish has the largest population of any Creating two minority-influence districts would still
Parish in Louisiana, outnumbering Orleans and Jeffer- satisfy the Voting Rights Act by giving African Ameri-
son from pre-Katrina years. Even more notable is that can voters an opportunity to be represented in the
East Baton Rouge Parish rivals Orleans Parish for the government; only this time, they would have that op-
greatest number of African American residents. This portunity in not one, but two districts. This, of course,
great migration from the New Orleans region after is only fair; Louisiana’s population is about one-third
Hurricane Katrina has created a quandary for Louisi- African American. Is it not reasonable that one-third
ana legislators when it comes to redistricting. There of Louisiana’s Congressional Districts should also be
is now no single significant concentration of African represented by minorities?
Americans around which to draw a minority-majority
district in Louisiana.

What does this mean for African Americans in Loui- Body Districts Ideal Population
siana? Basically, two options are available. First, the Congress 6 755,562
legislature could take a bar-bell approach. Under this House of Reps 105 43,174
approach, the Legislature would create a District that
Senate 39 116,240
resembles a bar-bell of sorts: two large sections of
African American residents in East Baton Rouge and B.E.S.E. 8 566,671
Orleans Parishes with a narrow section connecting P.S.C. 5 906,674
the two along the I-10 corridor. This approach, how- Supreme Court 7 647,624
ever, is unlikely pass muster under Justice Department
scrutiny because this type of District has already been Ideal populations for each of bodies where the
considered and rejected by the United States Supreme Legislature must redraw district lines in 2011.
Court. In the early 1990s, North Carolina tried the
bar-bell approach using two African American popu-
lation centers to create a minority-majority district. Not only does the two-district solution make sense
The Supreme Court in Shaw v. Hunt found that this given the significant minority population of Louisiana,
bar-bell shape was so unusual that it violated the Equal but the two separate minority-influence districts is
Protection Clause of the Constitution. also the culturally sensible decision. The problems and
issues of those in Baton Rouge are very different from
While one cannot assume outright that a bar-bell the concerns of those in New Orleans. Why should
would fail in Louisiana, there is a second option legis- such dynamically different places have to share a rep-
lators can take. Instead of creating one minority-ma- resentative simply because they are centers of African
jority district, the legislature could instead create two American population?
minority-influence districts. Under this approach, the
legislature would create two Congressional Districts Unfortunately, the prevailing view expressed through
based on the target population size of approximately recent redistricting proposals tends to be that a modi-
750,000; one in and around Orleans Parish and one fied bar-bell approach will do the trick for Louisi-
in and around East Baton Rouge Parish. Both areas ana. Even though Louisiana’s citizens have argued
contain large enough African American populations to for culturally homogeneous grouping, the legislature
create slim majorities or close-to majorities of African seems poised to approve a district map that lumps the
Americans in each district. majority of African Americans into one geographically
incompact district. As citizens of Louisiana, we need
Why is this a viable option? Simply, neither the fed- to advocate for a two district approach when it comes
12 Redistricting in Louisiana Louisiana Progress

to representation of African American citizens and we Final Thoughts

need challenge our legislators’ proposals that advocate
for anything resembling a bar-bell approach. The best Reflecting on this entire process made me think back
solution for Louisiana is a district map with Congres- to a time not long ago when Americans were asked
sional Districts that reflect the culture and geography to switch to digital television. Millions upon mil-
of the state. Simply lumping together minorities for lions of dollars were spent on educating the public
the sake of passing Justice Department scrutiny is through letters and television commercials. Even more
not an acceptable answer for something that will af- money was spent on providing vouchers for Ameri-
fect Louisiana citizens for the next decade and likely cans to go and prepare themselves for this transition.
beyond. What puzzles me is that here we are, on the precipice
of democratic change in Louisiana, yet the best our
Steadfast Advocacy legislative body can do is a “redistricting road show”
and a website. When we were required to change our
Though an independent commission for redistrict- television sets, our government reacted with extensive
ing in Louisiana will not exist during this redistricting measures to inform and provide for the public. Now
cycle, it is not off the table forever. Indeed, the nation- that we are required to change our legislative districts,
al push for independent commissions for redistricting our sense of what political grouping we belong to, our
grows stronger with each passing year. Even as recent- government has provided very little information and
ly as February of this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo even fewer resources.
of New York introduced a bill in the New York State
Legislature that would move the task of redistricting This whole process raises questions about the priorities
from the legislature’s hands to those of an independent of our legislators, as well as the priorities of the elec-
commission.4 Not only is legislation being introduced torate. Demand change. Contact your representative
to move to independent commissions, but public opin- in the Louisiana House of Representatives and ask for
ion is growing to support this reform. A recent survey more transparency. Ask for leadership when it comes
of citizens in Massachusetts showed that over 60% of to drawing the lines for Louisiana’s minority voters.
voters supported the idea of independent redistrict- And ask for reform of future redistricting processes. It
ing commissions over the more traditional legislative is only then that we will be taking a firm step forward
approach.5 for a more progressive Louisiana.

Unfortunately for Louisiana, we do not have much

advocacy for an independent redistricting commis-
sion outside of PAR, and no organization has surveyed
the public to see whether an independent commission
is the will of the people. As a result, the next steps About the Author
for Louisiana are first to educate the public about the Ryan Mick is a Louisiana educator. He
importance of independent commissions in the redis- holds a Master’s Degree in Research from
tricting process and second to find out the will of the Ohio University and a law degree from
people on this issue. Only then can advocates for an The George Washington University. Prior
independent redistricting commission in Louisiana to teaching, he worked for the Redistrict-
will have the mandate to go to the Legislature and ask ing Reform Project, a partnership of the
for change of the current system. Campaign Legal Center and the Council for
Excellence in Government.

Louisiana Progress Redistricting in Louisiana 13


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14 Redistricting in Louisiana Louisiana Progress

In Search of Fairness:
Assessing Redistricting Proposals
By Joshua Stockley, PhD and Dr. John Sutherlin

The process of reapportionment and redistricting may be the most important procedural aspect of the American
political system, but it is arguably the least understood by the public. Reapportionment is the process following
the decennial census to align changes in state populations with Congressional representation. For most of the
history of the US, that process was faithfully conducted. However, redistricting, or the redrawing of political dis-
tricts within a state, occurred infrequently until the 1960s (Bullock). Many states simply did not redistrict unless
it was absolutely necessary, and, when they did, they utilized capricious methods that had the effect of depriving
populations of fair and equal representation.

Louisiana reached a high-point for Congressional representation in 1912 when it was assigned eight districts.
But, since 1982, there has been a slow regression. The State lost a congressional district after the 1980 census,
and, in 2011, Louisiana was one of eight states that lost a Congressional district due to little or no population
growth (See Figure 1). What sets Louisiana apart from the other states losing Congressional districts is that it
will be asked to redistrict and preserve a majority-minority district at the epicenter of where Hurricane Katrina
impacted the state (See Figure 2).

The population loss is not restricted to

Orleans Parish. Parishes as different as
Bienville, East Carroll, Cameron, and St.
Bernard all experienced significant popu-
lation losses. On the other hand, East
Baton Rouge, Lafayette and St. Tammany
Parish all gained population.

This means that Louisiana must increase

the size of each Congressional district
by approximately 117,000 while keeping
its majority-minority district (unless it
wants to incur a legal challenge by the
Justice Department on retrogression). In
2000, Louisiana’s Congressional Districts
met the Justice Department’s districting
criteria and fashioned districts within
0.04 percent, or 240 people, of the ideal
Figure 1: 2010 Congressional Reapportionment population of 638,425 people.
Louisiana Progress Redistricting in Louisiana 15

Figure 2: Hurricane Katrina’s impact on population

Redistricting Louisiana during this reapportionment cycle will be tougher. Among the many challenges include
Congressional District 2, which encompasses a large number of minority neighborhoods in New Orleans deci-
mated by Hurricane Katrina. Orleans Parish alone lost more than 140,000 people; 120,000 were African Ameri-
can. District 2 must not only find another 105,000 people to meet new redistricting requirements and concomi-
tant ideal populations, but do so without significantly upsetting the racial percentages of the old district.

Louisiana has the historical distinction of having

created a majority-minority district in a fashion that
produced bad results. In 1991, Louisiana created a
“Zorro” district that violated almost every federal law
and intent of the Supreme Court by placing communi-
ties in a district where the only commonality was race
(see Figure 3). The Supreme Court rejected this ap-
proach through numerous cases; Shaw v. Reno (1993)
is but one example.

Louisiana has been under a pre-clearance order since

August 7, 1965 because of the Voting Rights Acts; re-
issued recently towards the end of 2010. According
to Louisiana law, three pre-clearance conditions are
required to be met: respecting municipal boundaries;
respecting precinct or political sub-division boundar-
ies; and preserving cores of prior districts. Also, per
state and federal law, Louisiana has to rely upon voting
tabulation districts (i.e., precincts) and census blocks Figure 3: The 1991 “Zorro District”
16 Redistricting in Louisiana Louisiana Progress

to fashion Congressional Districts. it eliminates the potential for the group to win or influ-
ence the outcome in other districts.
Outside of the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights
Act, and Public Law, each state is allowed to have its A third unfair tactic is called ‘stacking.’ Stacking is a
own set of criteria for determining how to proceed. technique to concentrate low-income, poorly educated
Louisiana must follow its own guidelines stipulated in minority citizens in the same district with high in-
the State Constitution and the Revised Statutes. Alas, come, better educated whites to create the illusion of a
federal and state legal requirements are just the begin- majority-minority district. Voter turnout generally is
ning. affected by the voter’s level of income and education.
While the district appears to be a majority-minority
Gerrymandering district, in reality a white candidate has a better chance
to win because lower voter turnout is anticipated
Gerrymandering is the process where political districts among the minority group.
are created to give one group an advantage over an-
other. A study by Gelman and King (1994) found that The last unfair tactic often employed is ‘incumbency
regardless of attempts by one party to create redistrict- gerrymandering,’ where groups that support a par-
ing advantages, the net result over time is to “change an ticular incumbent are removed from a district. This
existing huge bias in favor of one party to a small bias technique is most commonly used to disadvantage in-
in favor of the other.” That is, most attempts to gerry- cumbents of the opposing party, however it can also be
mandering have long term consequences opposite the employed to remove incumbents of the majority party.
redistricters’ original intent. Factions within a majority party, especially in states
where a single party dominates state politics, may at-
Today, gerrymandering and redistricting are synony- tempt to use the process to unseat an incumbent who
mous in the minds of many voters. This is a fallacy. is deemed ‘too moderate,’ is not favored by the party
As long as the process is not biased too heavily against establishment, or ‘does not support X, Y or Z program’
one group then there is no predicament. Nevertheless, desired by more prominent elected officials in the state.
there are a number of unfair tactics that citizens
should be on guard against.

Unfair Techniques
One unfair tactic is to ‘crack’ the opposition
(ethnic, racial or partisan) by dividing a previ-
ously discrete population into separate districts
in order to weaken its voting power. This makes
sure that the group that has been cracked, al-
though significant, is unable to reach a majority
in any single district. The Voting Rights Act in
many ways attempts to eliminate the cracking of

A second unfair tactic is ‘packing.’ This tech-

nique is used when a district is too large to crack.
Here, efforts are made to over-concentrate as
many members of a particular group (ethnic, ra-
cial or partisan) in one large district. While this
ensures the group’s representation in one district, Figure 4: Louisiana Family Forum Redistricting Map
Louisiana Progress Redistricting in Louisiana 17
Assessing the Louisiana Family
Assessment Criteria Forum’s Plan
Different groups will propose diverse redistricting
The Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) is a conservative-
plans for Louisiana, dividing up Congressional
leaning interest group that is “committed to defending
districts in many ways. With an overabundance
faith, freedom and the traditional family.” In 2010 it
of redistricting plans, concerned citizens and pub-
unveiled what it claimed was a “non-partisan proposal”
lic officials have the daunting task of determin-
for redistricting; however, this plan has several major
ing what plans are suitable, feasible, and realistic,
deficiencies and is not-so-non-partisan (See Figure 4).
while ensuring that the chosen plan complies with
federal and state laws.
1. Does it conform to federal and state law?
Not met.
The following rubric is recommended to deter-
mine the merits of any plan:
The LFF plan eliminates Louisiana’s only majority-
minority district, which absolutely violates the
1. Does it conform to federal and state law?
Voting Rights Act. States governed by the Voting
Rights Act are not allowed to dilute or weaken the
2. Does it unfairly treat a particular
political power of any previously discriminated
group. This plan utilizes the unfair redistricting
tactic of “cracking,” in this case, dividing African
3. Does it offer a comparative advantage to one
Americans into surrounding districts in order to
party or group over another party or group?
weaken their political power.
4. Can it be done with the census numbers?
2. Does it meet the five principles?
Not met.
5. Is it bi-partisan?
a. A minority district will first be drawn in accor-
Political realities being what they are, a sixth
dance with the Voting Rights Act and current fed-
element must be added to this rubric if the re-
eral law. Not met. This plan eliminates the major-
districting plan has any feasible chance of being
ity-minority Second District and, thereby, violates
adopted by the Louisiana legislature:
the Voting Rights Act. As presently constructed,
67% of the present-day Second District is African
6. Does it meet the five established principles of
American; the newly proposed Second District ap-
Louisiana’s Congressional delegation?
pears, at best, to be 50% African American.
a. A minority district will first be drawn in
accordance with the Voting Rights Act and
b. Two northern vertically oriented districts above
current federal law.
Interstate 10. Met. The LFF plan preserves two
b. Two northern vertically oriented districts
northern vertically oriented districts above Inter-
above Interstate 10.
state 10.
c. A district centered on Baton Rouge.
d. A New Orleans suburb coastal district.
c. A district centered on Baton Rouge. Met. This
e. A Lake Charles-Lafayette coastal district.
plan creates a proposed Sixth District centered on
Baton Rouge.
Concerned citizens and public officials would be
well advised to apply these criteria to any
redistricting plan.
18 Redistricting in Louisiana Louisiana Progress

d. A New Orleans suburb coastal district. Met. Assessing Joe Harrison’s Coastal Plan
The plan places the suburbs of New Orleans and
the eastern-half of the present-day Third District State Representative Joe Harrison, Republican-District
into a proposed Second District. 51, has proposed a redistricting plan dubbed the
“Coastal Plan” (See Figure 5). This plan centers on
e. A Lake Charles-Lafayette coastal district. Met. the creation of one congressional district, a proposed
The LFF plan places Lake Charles and Lafayette in Third District that encompasses all of Louisiana’s
the same district, a proposed Third District. parishes bordering the Gulf of Mexico. The attractive-
ness of this plan is that it allows one Congressman to
3. Does it unfairly treat any Congressman? Not met. represent the concerns and issues of coastal Louisiana,
The LFF plan eliminates much of Representative concerns and issues that are especially unique to this
Cedric Richmond’s present day Second District district – coastal erosion, offshore drilling, and the
and places him into a district with Representative seafood industry. Nevertheless, this district would
Jeff Landry, treating both Congressmen unfairly. present an enormous logistical challenge.

4. Does it offer a comparative advantage to one Could one Congressman have effectively dealt with
party or group over another party or group? Not hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ivan, and Gustav and the
met. This plan attempts to eliminate Louisiana’s BP Deepwater Horizon disaster? This would be a
only Democratic district. Despite claiming to be daunting task to ask of even one governor, who has
“non-partisan,” the plan creates the opportunity more resources and personnel at his disposal than any
for Republicans to be favored in all six of Louisi- Congressman. A coastal district also poses a repre-
ana’s Congressional districts. This plan also places sentational dilemma. Would it be more effective for
whites in a comparative advantage over African Louisiana to have two Congressmen or one Congress-
Americans. man directly representing the issues of coastal erosion,
offshore drilling, and the seafood industry in Wash-
5. Can it be done with the census numbers? Not met. ington D.C.? Generally speaking, two voices are more
First, the LFF plan is drawn with 2007 population powerful than one.
estimates, well-below and significantly different
from 2010 census results. Consequently, the LFF 1. Does it conform to federal and state law? Not met.
plan creates a proposed Second District failing to Harrison’s Coastal Plan violates federal law. His
account for the population loss of 140,000 people proposal includes population deviations of 2.53%,
(120,000 African Americans) in Orleans Parish. 2.13%, and 2.08%. The Supreme Court, under the
Second, the LFF plan creates four districts with “one man, one vote” principle articulated in Baker
717,000 people and two districts with 714,000 v. Carr, dictates districts with less than a 0.04%
people. This exceeds the population deviation deviation from the ideal population. Under the
presently allowed for by the Supreme Court. 2010 parish-level census numbers, the proposed
Third District exceeds the mandated ideal popula-
6. Is it bi-partisan? Not met. This plan ‘cracks’ the tion and percent deviation allowed by the courts.
only majority-minority district in the state, which A coastal district would be too big. The proposed
is also the only Democratic district in the state, an Second District appears to violate the legal prin-
obvious example of partisan gerrymandering. This ciples of compactness, bizarre shape, and race as
plan further fails to recognize historical congres- the predominant factor articulated in Shaw v. Reno
sional boundaries and disintegrates historical com- and Miller v. Johnson.
munities of interest.
2. Does it meet the five principles? Not met.
Louisiana Progress Redistricting in Louisiana 19
a. A minority district will first be drawn in ac- e. A Lake Charles-Lafayette coastal district. Not
cordance with the Voting Rights Act and current met. In the Coastal Plan, Calcasieu Parish and
federal law. Not met. The Coastal Plan first draws Lafayette Parish are split between the proposed
a coastal district and then draws the Second Dis- Third and proposed Sixth District. The proposed
trict. The proposed Second District, in zigzagging Sixth District places Lake Charles in a district with
through East Baton Rouge Parish, appears to vio- Shreveport. Representative Harrison does not con-
late the requirements outlined in Shaw v. Reno and sider Calcasieu Parish a coastal parish and does not
Miller v. Johnson that guide the interpretation and consider Lake Charles a coastal community.
implementation of the Voting Rights Act.
3. Does it unfairly treat any Congressman? Met, in
b. Two northern vertically oriented districts above part. The concept of fairness is elusive and difficult
Interstate 10. Met. The Coastal Plan preserves two to objectively determine, but at least two challenges
northern vertically oriented districts above Inter- arise in Harrison’s Coastal Plan. First, it creates
state 10. three districts over 250 miles long, a daunting
length of territory for a Congressman in Louisiana.
c. A district centered on Baton Rouge. Met. The As presently constructed, this forces Congressmen
Coastal Plan preserves a district centered on Baton John Fleming and Rodney Alexander to represent
Rouge. and traverse large swaths of territory. Second,
it presently places 480,000 people of the present
d. A New Orleans suburb coastal district. Met. Third District into a newly proposed Third District
The Coastal Plan takes the southern suburbs of versus 370,000 people from the present Seventh
New Orleans and places them into a coastal dis- District into a newly proposed Third District.
trict, the proposed Third District. The Coastal Plan disproportionately favors Con-
gressman Jeff Landry over Congressman Charles
Boustany. This is an example of the unfair tactic
‘incumbent gerrymandering.’

4. Does it offer a comparative advantage to one party

or group over another party or group? Met. The
Coastal Plan does not appear to overtly favor one
political party over another political party.

5. Can it be done with the census numbers? Not met.

The Coastal Plan is created with 2008 population
estimates, which underestimates the population
loss of Orleans Parish. The proposed Second Dis-
trict does not have enough people; the proposed
Third District has too many people. As presently
constructed, the percent deviation from the ideal
population of the Costal Plan exceeds the deviation
allowed by the Supreme Court.

6. Is it bi-partisan? Not met. This plan is a sponsored

Figure 5: Joe Harrison’s Coastal District Proposal by a Republican and has been endorsed by Repub-
lican Congressman Jeff Landry.
20 Redistricting in Louisiana Louisiana Progress

Assessing the Swing State’s Plan constructed it does not meet the condition ideal
population of 755,562. The proposed Fourth Dis-
Swing State Project is a liberal-leaning internet site trict violates the legal requirement of compactness,
dedicated to reporting on campaigns and elections bizarre shape, and race as a predominant factor
across the nation. A Louisiana redistricting plan ap- outlined in Shaw v. Reno and Miller v. Johnson that
peared on Swing State Project in July 2009. This plan guide the interpretation and implementation of the
attempts to create a three Republican-three Democrat Voting Rights Act.
delegation; however, this plan has several major defi-
ciencies. b. Two northern vertically oriented districts above
Interstate 10. Not met. This plan creates three
1. Does it conform to federal and state law? Not districts, dividing Shreveport into two districts
met. In an attempt to create two majority-minority and Monroe into two districts and, simultaneously,
districts, several legal principles outlined in Shaw places these two divided cities into two shared con-
v. Reno and Miller v. Johnson are blatantly violated. gressional districts.
The proposed Fourth District (see figure 6) and
proposed Second District (see figure 7) are not c. A district centered on Baton Rouge. Not met.
compact, have bizarre shapes, and have been cre- This plan divides Baton Rouge into two districts.
ated predominantly with race in mind. The pro-
posed Fourth District is highly reminiscent of the d. A New Orleans suburb coastal district. Met.
“Zorro” district created by the state legislature and The plan places the suburbs of New Orleans into a
overturned by the courts in the 1990s. suburb coastal district reminiscent of the present-
day Third District.
2. Does it meet the five principles? Not met.
e. A Lake Charles-Lafayette coastal district. Not
a. A minority district will first be drawn in accor- met. Lafayette Parish is split between a proposed
dance with the Voting Rights Act and current fed- Third and Sixth District.
eral law. Not met. This plan preserves the majori- Does it unfairly treat any Congressman? Not
ty-minority Second District; however, as presently met. The plan gives no consideration to historical

Figure 6: The Fourth District proposed on Swing State Figure 7: The Second District proposed on Swing State
snakes along the Mississippi River, and has been create wraps around Louisiana’s northern & eastern borders.
predominately with race in mind.
Louisiana Progress Redistricting in Louisiana 21
district alignments and would pit Congressman Assessing the Red Racing Horses’
Cedric Richmond versus Congressman Bill Cassidy
in the proposed Second District and Congress-
Northern District Plan
man Rodney Alexander versus Congressman John Red Racing Horses is a conservative-leaning internet
Fleming in the proposed Fifth District. site dedicated to covering campaigns and elections
across the nation. On February 2, 2011, two redis-
3. Does it offer a comparative advantage to one party tricting plans for Louisiana appeared on Red Rac-
or group over another party or group? Not met. ing Horses – a southern district plan and a northern
This plan overtly attempts to create three Demo- district plan. The southern district plan is very similar
cratic districts and three Republican districts. In to Representative Harrison’s Coastal Plan that has been
an attempt to create partisan balance, this plan assessed above. The second plan is a northern district
divides many parishes and several major cities into plan, an inverse of Representative Harrison’s Coastal
different districts. Plan (See Figure 7).
4. Can it be done with the census numbers? Not met. 1. Does it conform to federal and state law? Not met.
While the actual population statistics of the pro- The proposed Second District in the northern
posed districts are not provided, the districts do district plan appears to violate legal principles ar-
not appear to have identical populations and the ticulated in Shaw v. Reno and Miller v. Johnson by
proposal violates the legal principle of “one man, having the proposed Second district dividing river
one vote.” This is most evident with the proposed parishes from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. East
Second District, which lost 140,000 residents. Baton Rouge Parish is divided into two districts
and cuts off the western portion of the proposed
5. Is the plan bi-partisan? Not met. The plan is Sixth District.
sponsored by a liberal website. This plan is simply
not realistic and lacks any sensitivity to the political 2. Does it meet the five principles? Not met.
climate of the state.
a. A minority district will first be drawn
in accordance with the Voting Rights Act
and current federal law. Met, in part. The
proposed Second District in this plan does
appear to be drawn first and maintains a
majority-minority district, but is problemati-
cally constructed.

b. Two northern vertically oriented districts

above Interstate 10. Not met. The central
intent of the northern district plan is place
Monroe and Shreveport within one horizon-
tal district.

c. A district centered on Baton Rouge. Not

met. The proposed Sixth District uses Baton
Rouge as a population base, but stretches
wildly west and northwest all the way to
Natchitoches and incorporates parts of the
current Fifth and Fourth District.
Figure 8: Red Racing Horses’ Northern District Plan
22 Redistricting in Louisiana Louisiana Progress

d. A New Orleans suburb coastal district. Met. Conclusion

The northern district plan takes the suburbs of
New Orleans and places them into one of two With so many plans being produced, it is no wonder
coastal districts. that citizens (and even public officials) may get con-
fused or fatigued by the redistricting process. Yet,
e. A Lake Charles-Lafayette coastal district. Met. when these plans are analyzed according to the criteria
The northern district plan places Lake Charles and presented above, their relative merits are overshad-
Lafayette into the same district, a proposed Fourth owed by legal requirements from both the federal and
District. state government as well as the principles put forward
by Louisiana’s congressional delegation.
3. Does it unfairly treat any Congressman? Not met.
This plan places Congressmen John Fleming and Citizens are well-advised to be aware of both the
Rodney Alexander within the same district, retain- formal legal requirement s and informal, unfair tactics-
ing more of Congressman Fleming’s population --indeed all of the proposed plans discussed in this
base then Congressman Alexander’s population article utilize unfair tactics to some extent. Such a
base. Congressman Alexander, Louisiana’s senior careful analysis is crucial to ensuring that Louisiana
Congressman, is unfairly treated in this plan. ends up with a fair redistricting plan.

4. Does it offer a comparative advantage to one party

or group over another party or group? Met. The
northern district plan does not appear to favor one
political party or group over another political party
or group.

5. Can it be done with the census numbers? Not met.

The northern district plan is not created with 2010
census numbers and underestimates the popula-
tion loss that occurred in Orleans Parish. The
proposed Second district in this plan does not have
About the Authors
enough people.
Dr. Stockley is Assistant Professor of
Political Science at the University of
6. Is it bi-partisan? Not met. This plan is sponsored
Louisiana at Monroe, a regular columnist for
by a conservative website.
the Monroe News Star, and co-host of the
weekly radio talk show, Political
Incorrectness. He holds a Ph.D. from the
University of Oklahoma.

Dr. Sutherlin is an Assistant Professor of

Political Science and Co-Director of the
Social Science Research Laboratory at the
University of Louisiana at Monroe.
Louisiana Progress Redistricting in Louisiana 23
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