A group of activists has begun organizing a fight redraw Louisiana’s Congressional districts away from the indescribable shapes of their current “gerrymandered” forms into common-sense arrangements that better represent geographical regions of the state.
Members of the “Fair Districts Louisiana” group held a meetup and networking night Wednesday at UrbanSouth Brewery in the Lower Garden District to begin discussing the issue. While the group is still in its infancy, co-organizer Matt Bailey said their primary effort right now is building support and planning a statewide Fair District Summit in the fall.
Since losing a seat to Katrina-influenced population loss after the 2010 census, Louisiana has six Congressional Districts. The Second District, which represents most of New Orleans, stretches in an insectoid shape along the Mississippi River to Baton Rouge. The First District, which represents a sliver of Uptown nearest the Jefferson Parish line, primarily unfolds north of Lake Pontchartrain and south of New Orleans in two distinct sections. The Fourth and Fifth split North Louisiana into left-right pairs, and the Sixth almost wraps entirely around the Second.
While population estimates suggest Louisiana is unlikely to regain that seventh Congressional seat any time soon, the state must still be redistricted with results from the 2020 Census before the 2022 elections. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down race-based gerrymandering in North Carolina earlier this year and plans to consider a case against partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin next — bolstering activists’ hopes for change.
In Louisiana, about 1.2 million people cast ballots for Republicans in the 2016 Congressional elections, garnering almost exactly two-thirds of the votes cast. With six Congressional Districts, that might suggest the state should send a delegation to Washington of four Republicans and two Democrats. Instead, it has five Republicans and one Democratic Congressmen, with half of its Democratic votes packed into the Second District, and the rest divided in paltry amounts among the other five districts.
While the gerrymandering in Louisiana seems to benefit Republicans, Democrats likewise use it to their advantage in Maryland, one of the most heavily gerrymandered states in the nation, Bailey said. For that reason, it’s an issue that he believes members of both parties can support.
Further, Bailey said, activists have begun using the term “multipartisan,” since members of third parties like the Greens and Libertarians believe more competitive Congressional elections can give their candidates a greater chance of being heard.
Fair Districts Louisiana is gauging interest for more meetups. For more information, see their Facebook page.