MAGINNIS: Districts Look Funny for Good Reasons

This just in: Louisiana congressional districts look funny. According to a study performed by a geospatial software company and released last week, Louisiana 's congressional districts are among the least "compact" in the country. The underlying notion is that less compact districts, not conforming to traditional squares or circles with tidy, smooth borders, could be the result of political gerrymandering. That tracks the popular claim by Democrats that Republican-led state legislatures, like Louisiana’s, conspired to gerrymander the most recent congressional redistricting to ensure long-term GOP control of the U.S. House.

This state’s 2nd District, represented by Congressman Cedric Richmond, ranked seventh out of 435 for being the least compact. Seven of the 10 least compact districts are in states with Republican-controlled legislatures.

Truly, if drawn on a piece of paper, the 2nd looks a mess, squiggling north by northwest from New Orleans to north Baton Rouge. That it is a 63 percent minority district, surrounded by three very white Republican-held districts, follows the Democratic narrative that Republicans “packed in” African-Americans in order to make whiter the three adjacent districts, the 1st, 3rd and 6th.

Were politics played? Of course, what else do politicians play? But like in most games, it took two to play. In congressional redistricting, the players were the Republicans and black Democrats, both of whose numbers have increased dramatically in the last four reapportionments, at the expense of white Democrats, who, as the game ball, got kicked around a lot. The same goes for legislative redistricting.

If there is something wrong with that, there is nothing illegal. A long line of court decisions have banned discrimination by race in reapportionment, but have said it’s perfectly fine to discriminate by party. It’s the American way.

Yet, as the study concedes, there are logical reasons the 2nd offends geospatial sensibilities: the Mississippi River and the Voting Rights Act. Regardless of political motives, the Legislature did a reasonable job drawing the district as it did.

The VRA doesn’t grant a pass for population dispersions caused by busted levees. So when thousands of New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina moved up the river to Baton Rouge and beyond, the new 2nd District followed them, retracing population patterns going back over 200 years. In terms of communities of interest, one can argue that north Baton Rouge residents have more in common with those in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans than with the denizens of the Country Club of Louisiana, on the south side of the capital city.

Those former 6th District residents were replaced by folks in the river and bayou parishes, most of them white. As a result, the 6th District, represented by a Democrat in 2008, is now redder than Red Stick. Republicans may have benefitted, but, ultimately, Katrina and the Corps of Engineers made it happen.

Some would say the state’s most gerrymandered district is the meandering 5th, which plunges from the Arkansas border down the delta, takes a hard left at St. Francisville and cuts across the top of the Florida parishes to Bogalusa. But its shape has less to do with partisanship or race than with the region’s demands (backed by the threat of a gubernatorial veto during the redistricting session) to maintain two north Louisiana districts, one each based in Shreveport and Monroe. An alternative plan would have put both cities in an east-west district along Interstate 20.

With the 4th District approaching Lake Charles and the 5th Baton Rouge, by 2020, if the south keeps growing and the north doesn’t, there may be no escaping the I-20 alignment. If folks in Lafayette and Lake Charles can share a district, so can those in Shreveport and Monroe. That’s what happens when a state loses two congressional districts in 20 years, with most of the population loss occurring north of Interstate 10.

What would suit redistricting reformers—and provide more business for geospatial software companies—would be for states to follow the lead of California, which has an appointed non-partisan board to draw congressional and legislative districts. That might happen in Louisiana some time after it happens in every other state, and perhaps not then. When and if it does, non-politicians will still have to grapple with community interests, minority rights and a landscape covered mostly by water, forests and cow pastures. What they come up with might not make any more sense or look any less funny than what our politicians have wrought.

Issue 1207

By JEREMY ALFORD & MITCH RABALAIS | May 30, 2019 | Issue 1207 | News@LaPolitics.com | @LaPoliticsNow | LaPolitics.com Aboard Air

The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

   By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais    |   May 28, 2019    |    Issue 189   | 

Issue 1206

By JEREMY ALFORD & MITCH RABALAIS | May 23, 2019 | Issue 1206 | News@LaPolitics.com | @LaPoliticsNow | LaPolitics.com ABORTION

The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

   By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais    |   May 21, 2019    |    Issue 188   | 

Issue 1205

By JEREMY ALFORD & MITCH RABALAIS | May 16, 2019 | Issue 1205 | News@LaPolitics.com | @LaPoliticsNow | LaPolitics.com You’ve Been

Issue 1204

By JEREMY ALFORD & MITCH RABALAIS | May 9, 2019 | Issue 1204 | News@LaPolitics.com | @LaPoliticsNow | LaPolitics.com Keeping the

Issue 1203

By JEREMY ALFORD & MITCH RABALAIS | May 2, 2019 | Issue 1203 | News@LaPolitics.com | @LaPoliticsNow | LaPolitics.com Double

The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

   By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais    |    April 30, 2019    |    Issue 185  

The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

The Tuesday Tracker {  S P O N S O R E D   B Y   H A R R I S ,   D e V I L L E   &   A S S O

Issue 1201

By JEREMY ALFORD & MITCH RABALAIS | April 18, 2019 | Issue 1201 | News@LaPolitics.com | @LaPoliticsNow | LaPolitics.com What Will

The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais    |    April 15, 2019    |    Issue 183    |    News@LaPolitics.com    |    @LaPoliticsNow    |   

Issue 1199

By JEREMY ALFORD & MITCH RABALAIS   |   April 4, 2019   |   Issue 1199   |   News@LaPolitics.com   |

The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais    |    April 2, 2019    |    Issue 181    |    News@LaPolitics.com    |    @LaPoliticsNow    |   

Issue 1197

By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais    |    March 21, 2019    |    Issue 1197    | 

The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

   By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais    |    March 19, 2019    |    Issue 179 

Issue 1196

LaPolitics Weekly B y   J E R E M Y   A L F O R D   &   M I T C H   R A B A L A I S Issue 1,196  

The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

   By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais    |    March 12, 2019    |    Issue 178 

Issue 1195

By   JEREMY ALFORD & MITCH RABALAIS Issue 1,195                        

The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

The Tuesday Tracker Sponsored By Harris, DeVille & Associates By JEREMY ALFORD & MITCH RABALAIS February 26, 2019   |

Issue 1194

B y   J E R E M Y   A L F O R D   &   M I T C H   R A B A L A I S Issue 1,194        

The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

The Tuesday Tracker Sponsored By Harris, DeVille & Associates By JEREMY ALFORD & MITCH RABALAIS February 19, 2019

POD: Donelon, Disco & the Dividends of Defeat

https://soundcloud.com/lapolitics/donelon-disco-the-dividends-of-defeat  In the latest episode of The LaPolitics Report podcast,

Issue 1,193

Issue 1,193 - February 14, 2019 By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais Dollars & Question Marks Abraham’s ante, Gumbo coming

The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

ROLL CALL St. Tammany emerges at center of gubernatorial campaign… John Gallagher talks 2019 municipal races… A look back at the

Issue 1192

Issue 1192 - February 7, 2019 By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais Keeping Their Powder Dry GOP wants to see movement in