Alford: Redistricting is coming to a town near you

(File photo)

“Redistricting is all about change.”

That was the message delivered to lawmakers last week by Patricia Lowrey-Dufour, a legislative analyst for the House and Governmental Affairs Committee who is starting her fourth decennial round of redistricting as a state employee.

Make no mistake: Change is coming. Malapportionment data shows adjustments are needed in election boundaries for not only Congress and the Legislature, but also the Public Service Commission, Supreme Court and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. 

To get that process moving, members of the Joint Governmental Affairs Committee were at the Capitol last week for their first in a series of public hearings on redistricting. The next meeting on the road is slated for October in Monroe, and the last will be in January in Baton Rouge, just prior to the February special session on redistricting. 

Every 10 years lawmakers tackle this task. This go-around things are a bit behind schedule due to the introduction of COVID-19 into our lives in early 2020. But now everything seems to be on track as the Legislature prepares to redraw our election lines based on the latest census figures.

The Legislature’s governmental affairs committee will guide the process, which is required to ensure that populations inside our election districts are equally distributed. While the committees adopted some joint rules earlier this year (HCR90), members last week approved an allocation method and basic terminology for their redistricting efforts. They also gave a green light to an evaluation form that will be used by staff to determine if proposed maps meet all of the standards outlined by the federal government and the courts.

Comments and testimony from outside the Legislature were sparse last week, with the exception of the town of Grand Isle, which formally asked the joint committee to keep it inside House District 54. To be sure, there’s a lot of intrigue surrounding Louisiana’s legislative districts, which have experienced losses in the northwest and gains in the southeast. Every district must be the same size by the end of the redistricting session, which will be a challenge. 

We learned last week that there are 39 House and Senate districts with too many constituents and 52 with too few. That means 91 out of the Legislature’s 144 districts will need to be redrawn. “The chances of any district remaining untouched by redistricting are probably zero, so just be aware,” Lowrey-Dufour told lawmakers.

Similar changes are needed to fix districts in other elected bodies as well, from the Arkansas state line all the way south to the coast. Simply put, if you live in Louisiana, your election lines are about to undergo changes that will stick for at least a decade.

Lawmakers, however, are not going to redraw all of these lines in a vacuum. The public will be given an opportunity to tell members of the House and Senate what it would like to see from this process. Meetings are scheduled for every corner of the state. 

If you have concerns or questions, don’t wait until the February special session. Get in on the conversation early and mark your calendars with the following dates, times and locations:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 20; 5:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m.; University of Louisiana Monroe
  • Thursday, Oct. 21; 5:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m.; LSU Shreveport
  • Tuesday, Oct. 26; 5:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m.; University of Louisiana Lafayette
  • Tuesday, Nov. 9; 5:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m.; LSU Alexandria
  • Tuesday, Nov. 16; 5:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m.; Southern University, Baton Rouge
  • Tuesday, Nov. 30; 5:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m.; Fuhrmann Auditorium, Covington
  • Wednesday, Dec. 15; 5:30 p.m –8:30 p.m.; a location to be determined in Lake Charles
  • Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022; 5:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m.; University of New Orleans
  • Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022; 5:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m.; Nicholls State University, Thibidaux
  • Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022; 11:00 am; State Capitol in Baton Rouge

For more information about these upcoming meetings, visit https://redist.legis.la.gov/.

Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.