Black residents want more representation in Louisiana’s Congressional delegation

‘I’m sick and tired of being not fairly represented in Congress.’

By: - November 17, 2021 8:48 am
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The Louisiana Capitol Building, April 8, 2021. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator).

Jacquelyn Germany, a Black Baton Rouge native, is “sick and tired of being not fairly represented in Congress.” 

Germany, and several other Black Louisiana residents, told state lawmakers that Louisiana’s Black population — which makes up a third of the state — should be better reflected in the state’s Congressional delegation. 

About a third of Louisiana’s population is Black and mostly Democratic, but only one of Louisiana’s six members of Congress — Rep. Troy Carter — is either Black or a Democrat. The rest of the delegation is made up of white Republicans. Black residents like Germany said that representation is lopsided because the state’s political lines have been drawn to benefit Republicans. 

“It’s time for fair maps. It’s time for fair representation. It’s time to make a difference,” Germany said.

She and other residents testified Tuesday in front of the Louisiana Legislature’s governmental affairs committee during a public meeting about the redrawing of the state’s political boundaries at Southern University in Baton Rouge. It was the fifth of ten hearings the committees are holding around the state on political redistricting.

With new U.S. Census data in, the Legislature will adjust political districts for its congressional members, the Louisiana Legislature, state school board and Public Service Commission for the next ten years. Those adjustments will be drawn during an Extraordinary Session for Redistricting sometime in early 2022.

Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, represented by Carter, is drawn to include parts of metro New Orleans and Baton Rouge — the two biggest cities in the state. Both cities also have majority Black populations.

Many speakers believe Baton Rouge and New Orleans should be split completely into at least two different congressional districts — which might give more Black and Democratic candidates a chance to get elected. 

Arielle McTootie, a law fellow with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said Black residents would have “an equal opportunity to elect their preferred candidates to Congress” if congressional districts are redrawn to fairly represent minorities.”

“A map that includes all of Baton Rouge in a second majority Black district would keep this community intact, and allow residents in Baton Rouge to participate equally in the political process,” McTootie said.

Rep. John Stefanski, a Crowley Republican and one of the legislators leading redistricting efforts, said he’s heard “all different kinds of considerations” about how to redraw political districts from other lawmakers.

“Every committee member has an interest in Congress and an idea of what Congress should look like to them,” Stefanski said.

Political affiliation will be a factor in the redistricting process. Republicans have gained more power in the Louisiana Legislature since the last redistricting session took place in 2011. Democrats fear that could mean the new lines are skewed more to benefit conservatives. 

Republicans hold a super-majority in the Louisiana Senate, but Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has veto authority for political district maps, giving his party some political sway.

When asked if Edwards would approve a political district map that doesn’t have two majority Black congressional districts, Stefanski said there hasn’t been any communication between his committee and the governor’s office. 

“I don’t know and I don’t want to speculate on that,” Stefanski said.

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is an award-winning journalist at The Louisiana Illuminator. Canicosa has previous experience at Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.