Democratic state Rep. Cedric Glover recently finished his fourth redistricting effort and one theme has flowed through each: If you give partisans the power to draw the lines of their own districts, they will do so in a way that guarantees their party’s candidates will be reelected by including constituents who agree with them and excluding those who don’t.
“What happened in February, what we were doing, was protecting our own jobs,” said Glover, also a former mayor of Shreveport. That’s why he filed House Bill 562, which would create an independent commission of everyday citizens to handle reapportionment instead of politicians.
It took Gov. John Bel Edwards only two redistricting sessions to reach Glover’s conclusion.
“The current process is not working. That is why I am supporting legislation to establish an independent redistricting commission to support the Legislature in reapportionment for future redistricting. Eighteen other states have some type of commission, and I think we should be the 19th,” Edwards said last week during his state of state address.
Actually, only eight states operate an independent commission the way HB562 envisions.
Glover proposes a 15-member panel chosen by the Senate, the House, the governor and the Supreme Court. None of the commissioners can hold elective office, be active in party politics or be a lobbyist. The party affiliations of members must be equal. The commission would deliver three alternative maps for each office from which legislators would choose.
Legislators have until March 25 to decide whether to challenge the Democratic governor’s veto of the new maps that would guarantee for another…
Edwards signed or allowed to become law without his signature maps drafted during the Feb. 1 to Feb. 18 special redistricting session. But he did veto Senate Bill 5 and House Bill 1 that were identical — with tweaks to match the latest U.S. Census findings — yet pretty much recreated similar constituencies that elected five White Republicans to Congress and one Black Democrat for the past 10 years.
Edwards pointed out that the latest Census showed the number of White people in Louisiana declined during the past decade, while the number of minority people increased. That results in African Americans now making up a third of the state’s population, meaning Louisiana should have two districts in which Black candidates have a reasonable chance of winning election during the next 10 years.
Drawing another district that includes enough voters to give a Black candidate a fighting chance likely means flipping one of Louisiana’s five Republican seats in Congress to a Democrat. Only 2% of the state’s registered Republicans are African American.
As the Democrats have 11 more members in the 435-seat U.S. House of Representatives, just how these districts are drawn is of great interest to the national parties.
State Rep. John Stefanski, the Crowley Republican who was in charge of House’s redistricting effort and whose GOP-dominated House & Governmental Affairs Committee will hear HB562, said he opposes the idea of an independent commission. Ever since Louisiana joined the Republic, aligning elective offices with changes in the Census has been a political exercise. And somebody has to appoint commission members, which itself is a political exercise, he added.
Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday night vetoed the congressional redistricting map passed by the Republican-majority Legislature, saying it s…
The Ohio maps, which were drawn by a commission, were thrown out by that state’s Supreme Court on arguments the panel was dominated by Republican-appointed commissioners whose work product favored GOP congressional candidates.
Gerrymandering has been part of the Republic since its founding, Chris Lamar, legal counsel, said on the website of the Redistricting Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for independent redistricting commissions and other changes they say will increase voter participation. But these days technology allows politicians to pinpoint their voters and create safe districts.
Sophisticated computer programs and databases can organize purchases and consumer decisions into reliable profiles of voters that politicians can use to tailor their messages or judge the desirability of constituents. Do you shop more at Whole Foods or at Walmart? Drive a pickup or a Prius? Subscribe to The Nation or The American Spectator?
Even with the support of Edwards, Glover recognizes that his quest for an independent redistricting panel is an uphill battle.
Because HB562 would change the state Constitution, he needs 70 votes from a House where he couldn’t muster 53 votes to support amendments that would have increased African American participation. His three reapportionment bills didn’t clear the House & Governmental Affairs Committee.
“We’ll at least have a test,” Glover said, “and put on record that the current system isn’t fair, isn’t equitable.”