Redistricting Begins: Will North Louisiana Lose a Congressional Seat?

The Louisiana Legislature begins a special session Tuesday on redistricting. A key focus is whether two of the state’s six congressional districts should be redrawn to give minority residents a better chance of electing two black members of Congress instead of one.

Black leaders and civil rights groups say it’s only fair since African Americans make up nearly a third of the state’s population.

The 2020 census shows North Louisiana, which has two white congressional representatives, has lost population.

Republicans want to keep the 5 congressional seats they have

Politics will get even more complicated — and potentially tense — when it comes to redrawing Louisiana House’s 105 districts and the 39 districts that send state senators to Baton Rouge.

Census data shows that suburban areas around New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette are among the state’s fastest growing areas and their voters are predominantly white and Republican. And most state legislative seats currently held by black politicians are in districts that have lost population and will need to be redrawn.

Lawmakers say population shifts lay the groundwork for debate. Yet political considerations play a considerable role as state lawmakers fight to maintain their electoral advantages.

The parties will fight for a seat in Congress that could help tip the balance of power in Washington.

To add even more intrigue, Louisiana is the only state in the Deep South with a Democratic governor who could potentially veto the maps the Republican-dominated Legislature draws.

These considerations will affect how district lines are redrawn, but there is no way of knowing what will come out of the special three-week 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.

Rigamer said there are many ways mathematically to make districts even in population, but politicians have different ideas for how the redrawn lines will benefit their party. Republicans hope to keep the congressional districts the same, but with slight variations.

Rep. Tanner Magee, the second-ranking Republican in the State House, said he expects the House “to draw its maps in a way that we always have, which is pretty cooperative.”

Will North Louisiana lose a seat in Congress?

The Democratic Party is fighting to condense the two northern congressional districts, which now sit side by side from north to south, into a single horizontal district along Interstate 20, so another majority-minority district could be added to southern Louisiana.

Jared Evans, political adviser for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said black voters have been crowded into District 2, which winds from predominantly black areas of New Orleans to similar neighborhoods in Baton Rouge.

The NAACP submitted seven different district maps to the Legislature a few weeks ago, which included two majority-minority districts, Evans said.

“In all seven maps, we proposed splitting New Orleans and Baton Rouge,” Evans said, “New Orleans remains the anchor of the 2nd Congressional District, and Baton Rouge would be the anchor from another majority-minority congressional district.”

But Republican leaders, like State Rep. Jack McFarland of Jonesboro, have said North Louisiana needs to retain whatever representation it can get to help it recover economically.

Rigamer said it was also possible for the Legislature to keep the six congressional districts roughly as they are with some changes.

Republican Representatives Steve Scalise and Garrett Graves now represent suburban seats around New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Rigamer said, “You can maintain the current configuration of the district with a few changes, causing Congressional District 1 and Congressional District 6 to drop some people, which they need to do.”

Northern Louisiana has experienced significant population loss

Besides the size of the state’s black population, part of the push to strip a congressional seat from northern Louisiana comes from new census data released in August.

Although Louisiana experienced a slight population growth rate of 2.7%, 2020 census results show that northern parishes experienced significant population loss while suburban areas in southern parishes experienced growth. substantial demographic.

According to the 2020 Census, St. Bernard Parish and Orleans Parish in the New Orleans metropolitan area and Ascension Parish in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area experienced some of the fastest population growth rates. important. St. Bernard Parish saw the largest increase of 30.8% from the 2010 census, and Ascension Parish increased by 20.6%. Even Orleans Parish itself saw an 11.69% increase.

In contrast, many northern parishes lost population, according to the 2020 census. Tensas Parish saw a 22.32% drop, Vernon Parish saw a 12.6% drop, of Winn saw a decline of 12.20% and Catahoula Parish saw a decline of 10.7%.

Why have so many northern parishes gone into steep decline? Rigamer and District State Representative Neil Riser, a Columbia Republican in Caldwell Parish, the answer is clear. Jobs are saturated in southern cities like New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

“People follow dollars,” Rigamer said.

Rep. Riser said jobs are down in northern Louisiana.

Riser District represents parishes that have experienced some of the most significant declines, such as Tensas Parish, Catahoula Parish, and Caldwell Parish. He believes that technology is a key factor that pushes people to the southern neighborhoods. Riser said larger cities with more job opportunities have better internet connectivity and better access to technology.

Population recovery rather than population growth

The population increase in the south can also be attributed to trends that show population gains in areas extending between the I-10 through I-12 freeways.

“I think you can attribute some of the growth to people who came back after the severe storms that Louisiana has faced for the past 40 years,” said Assembly Director of Population Services Dr. William Blair. Louisiana legislature.

Rigamer noted Orleans Parish is experiencing more population recovery than population growth as more people who moved after Hurricane Katrina return.

There are minorities in northern Louisiana who don’t feel like they are fairly represented.

In 2000, Orleans Parish had a population of 484,000, and in 2010 that number fell to 343,000, Rigamer said. Now the population stands at 383,000.

The population of Ascension Parish, a predominantly white area near Baton Rouge, has nearly tripled since 1990, with an increase of more than 80,000. According to census data, Ascension is home to 130,096 people, making it the 14th largest parish in Louisiana.

“A lot of the population growth we’ve seen has happened at a rapid pace,” said state Rep. Tony Bacala, who lives in Prairieville.

Senator Katrina Jackson, a member of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus and senator from Monroe, favors another majority-minority district.

“There are minorities in northern Louisiana that don’t feel like they’re fairly represented,” Jackson said.

What will happen to state legislatures?

But according to a recent analysis of the lawyer, racial politics can get even more heated when it comes to redesigning the Senate and House districts of the states.

The newspaper found that 70% of the 27 State House districts represented by black lawmakers will need to be redrawn to add more people to reach the minimum total of 44,000 residents for each district.

the lawyer also found that five of the 10 state senate districts held by black politicians will need to be redesigned to add more people.

In some cases, adjacent districts are represented by white lawmakers, who won’t want to lose some of their loyal voters.

What will happen over the next three weeks is difficult to predict.

“Anything is possible during redistricting,” said Senator Jackson.

By Lura Stabiler and Braxton Brown/LSU Manship School News Service. Margaret DeLaney and Grace Schaumburg contributed to this story.

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