Legislative Research Analyst Patricia Lowrey-Dufour, center, presents redistricting data to the Joint Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)
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In a process that will impact almost every election in Louisiana for the next decade, the state legislature will hold the first of nine regional public forums on Oct. 20 beginning in Monroe regarding how lawmakers will draw the state’s new political maps and choose which voters to include in which districts.
Beginning in mid-October and ending in mid-January, the forums are scheduled to be held in Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Covington, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, New Orleans, Shreveport, and Thibodaux, according to a legislative press release.
The purpose of the forums is to explain the process of redistricting, raise awareness of its importance, and engage public participation, the press release said. Redistricting is a process in which lawmakers consider new census figures to redraw maps that determine which voters to include in certain statewide political districts for U.S. Congress, Public Service Commission, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), state Supreme Court, state Senate, and the state House of Representatives.
At a legislative committee meeting last month, staff members told lawmakers to prepare themselves for significant changes to the state’s political maps due to population changes across the state.
“As you can see from this map, the chances of any district remaining untouched by redistricting are probably zero, so just be aware,” Legislative Research Analyst Patricia Lowrey-Dufour said to the lawmakers. “I want you to be aware that redistricting is all about change, and as you can see if you look to your left and your right for your neighboring districts, you can see that there will have to be substantial changes made.”
Taken every 10 years, the U.S. Census affects political representation on the federal, state, and local levels. It directs the allocation of billions of federal dollars in government funding to the states and guides local leaders in important community planning efforts such as where to build new roads, hospitals and schools, according to the press release.
Although Louisiana’s total population neither increased nor decreased significantly since 2010, the state saw significant shifts in population moving from the northern half to the southern half and from rural to urban and suburban areas, according to the 2020 Census.
Historically, both in Louisiana and other states, redistricting can be contentious as groups charge that lines will result in unfair representation of minority groups and a cementing of power for the incumbent political party through gerrymandering — a tactic of drawing political boundaries to benefit one party or group.
The GOP has a super-majority in the Louisiana Senate but not in the House, and Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has veto authority for any political district maps passed by the legislature. That means the Democrats should have some ability to push back on political maps that favor Republicans, even though Republicans control both legislative chambers.
In order to allow maximum public participation, all the meetings will be held after normal work hours beginning at 5:30 p.m. and will be streamed live on the Legislative Redistricting site, Facebook, and YouTube. To view the meetings on any of these platforms, visit https://redist.legis.la.gov/live.
The first forum will take place Wednesday, Oct. 20, in the 7th-floor library terrace at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
Legislative staff members will give presentations regarding the 2020 Census, redistricting law, and population trends in the region where the respective meeting is being held. Attendees will also receive more information on current census estimates for the region, and the timeline for 2021 redistricting.
For meeting details and general information regarding the redistricting process, visit the Louisiana Legislative Redistricting web page at https://redist.legis.la.gov/.
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