Following a divided U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that federal courts have no authority to police partisan gerrymandering, the battle to prevent political line-drawing ahead of the 2021 redistricting process now moves down to individual states.
In Louisiana, advocates say that battle is still underway, despite blows to the effort from both the state and federal levels in recent months.
Fair Districts Louisiana, a grass-roots advocacy group, has been pushing for redistricting reform since 2017, counting Louisiana among the most highly gerrymandered states. The group held a bipartisan summit in 2018 and backed legislation in the 2019 session to enhance transparency in the redistricting process, which ultimately failed.
Then, on Thursday, in a 5-4 decision the high court crushed any hopes of federal intervention, essentially ruling that Congress and state Legislatures must tackle redistricting reforms themselves, says Fair Districts Louisiana co-founder Brandon Faske.
The group’s only recourse will be to return to the Louisiana Legislature next year, hoping state lawmakers will get behind the effort to bring impartiality and transparency to redrawing district lines.
“While Fair Districts Louisiana is greatly disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision holding that partisan gerrymandering is a political question and cannot be remedied by the federal courts, we look forward to redoubling our efforts in Louisiana to ensure the 2021 redistricting cycle results in fair and equitable representation for all Louisianans, regardless of political affiliation,” Faske says.
In this year’s legislative session, Fair Districts Louisiana supported a measure, House Bill 504, that would have created the Reapportionment Transparency Act, requiring public redistricting hearings across the state, as well as a study and advisory committee to identify best practices from other states, among other things.
The House Government Affairs Committee, however, rejected the bill.
But the fair districts group has not given up on its mission, Faske says, and is working to develop a plan for the next Legislative session—before time runs out. After the next Census Bureau count in 2020, redistricting efforts begin in 2021.
“It’s an issue we want to pursue next year,” he says. “We’ll be up against the clock.”