Black spokespersons at nine public hearings on redrawing electoral lines for six Louisiana state agencies have made it clear they want additional representation on some of those state agencies. It’s a tall order facing state lawmakers when they hold a special redistricting session Feb. 1-20.
The Joint Committee on Government Affairs of the Legislative Assembly will hold its 10and and final public hearing on redistricting today in Room 5 of the State Capitol. The committee will then begin to work on the drawing of the proposed electoral boundaries which will be decided at the special session.
Redistricting takes place after the US census every ten years. The six bodies are the state House and Senate, Congress, the Civil Service Commission which regulates public services, the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and the Supreme Court of the state.
Black organizations definitely want another majority-minority district in the US House of Representatives and on the BESE board. It is a district in which the majority of voters in the district are racial or ethnic minorities. They are also expected to want more of these districts over some of the other public bodies.
Bothn/a The Congressional District is the only majority-minority district out of the state’s six districts. Black lawmakers said they make up one-third of the state’s population and one-third of the six eastern two congressional districts.
The state had a second majority-minority district twice in the 1990s, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that political boundaries cannot be drawn for the sole purpose of enhancing minority strength and two districts were dissolved.
In order to get the required number of blacks in these two districts, one of them was Z-shaped and 600 miles long. The other went through 15 parishes from Shreveport to beyond Baton Rouge.
Federal law states that if race is found to be the predominant factor in the creation of minority districts, strict control will apply.
Those who have come out in favor of a majority-minority second congressional district insist that a second district is possible. They have drawn up proposed electoral districts which they believe will pass the mark.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards backs a minority second congressional district, but said there were two reasons it might be difficult.
#1, he said it depends on where the black populations are. #2, “If we do, of course, I don’t know if we can continue to have two northern Louisiana districts like they do, because that would be a major map overhaul.”
State lawmakers that serve areas of these two northern Louisiana congressional districts have been quick to defend them and insist they want them to continue.
Blacks want a third seat on the BESE board of directors, which has eight elected and three governor-appointed members. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and State Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, both expressed support for this third minority member.
Fields, by the way, was elected twice in the 1990s in that majority-minority second congressional district that was thrown out of court.
A letter from 15 organizations says failure to add a third minority member to the BESE board would likely violate the Voting Rights Act 1965. They argue that blacks make up one-third of the state’s population and that 48% of students attending public schools are minorities.
The electoral lines for the Supreme Court of seven member states have not been redrawn since 1997 and the populations of the districts are very unbalanced. However, it takes a two-thirds vote in the State House and Senate to redraw those election lines this year.
Blacks have made it clear that legal action will be taken if they are unsuccessful in the special session. Other states are also expected to challenge some new electoral lines.
The Biden administration has sued Texas to block its new congressional map. He accused the state of gerrymandering to exclude nonwhites in violation of federal suffrage law.
Although the United States Supreme Court closely monitors redistricting based solely on race, it does not interfere when new electoral lines protect political parties and officials. That 2019 ruling will be reviewed again during the court’s current term, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
If drawing electoral lines based on race is not allowed, it should also be illegal to do so in order to protect political parties and public officials.