The Louisiana Capitol Building, April 8, 2021. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator).
Southwest Louisiana residents were divided over keeping their congressional district intact at Wednesday’s public hearing on political redistricting in Lake Charles.
Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District includes 10 parishes, with industries that range from seafood and agriculture to petrochemicals. It runs from Calcasieu Parish to Iberia Parish and Lafayette.
The Legislature is due to redraw political districts for its congressional members, the Louisiana Legislature, state school board Public Service Commission and possibly the state’s Supreme Court. The redistricting process will determine Louisiana’s political landscape for the next ten years.
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Some residents pushed forLafayette and Lake Charles to be kept in the same congressional district along the I-10 corridor.
“We have so much in common, we have a lot of family connections between Acadiana and Southwest Louisiana. We have our industry and our economy and the I-10 corridor ties us all together,” said George Swift, head of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.
But minority residents speaking at the hearing said they want a second majority-Black district. Despite making up nearly one-third of the state’s population, Black residents are only a majority in one of Louisiana’s six congressional districts and one of the seven state supreme court districts.
Dustin Granger and Jake Shaheen, two candidates who ran State Senate District 27 seat in Southwest Louisiana earlier this year, both showed up to ask for better minority representation at the hearing.
“We need to have at least two minority districts because that’s just math,” Shaheen said.
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Debra Ramirez, a Lake Charles resident, said redistricting is a way for the city to recover from the 2020 hurricane season. Lake Charles was devastated by Hurricane Laura and hit again by Hurricane Delta within a few weeks of each other. The city also had to contend with a winter storm, heavy flooding, and an October tornado this year, leaving residents struggling to recover.
“We’ve definitely been having a lot of gerrymandering and voter suppression, socialism, and you just name it, we’ve got it,” Ramirez said. “We’ve had every storm and hurricane that came in to tear up what it could tear up and do the damage that it could do. But now, we have the opportunity as people to get it right.”
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