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Redistricting soon both possible, essential for Louisiana

After the U.S. Supreme Court recently affirmed that states could reapportion themselves at any time, Louisiana has a strong case to do so with its Legislature as a result of the hurricane disasters of 2005 which has caused the state’s population to lose at present as many as 300,000 people and has dramatically shifted population patterns within it.

On the one hand, for representative democracy to actually be so, equiproportionality must exist among these districts, or else rotten burroughs spoil things. On the other hand, the statistical basis on which to do so is fleeting unless the state commits a good chunk of change to carrying out some kind of census.

While some may contend the wide variances in district populations must be tolerated until the next federal census and the 2011 election cycle, there is some middle ground here. The need is obvious; for example, turnout in the 2006 primary in New Orleans’ flood-ravaged District E was nearly half that of the 2002 primary turnout, down about 20 percent, even with heroic get-out-the-vote efforts funded by state taxpayers.

The state should proceed by petitioning to the Department of Justice that the state use registered voters as the basis on which to reapportion during the 2007 session for that election cycle only, based upon the Court’s 1966 ruling in Burns v. Richardson. There, the court allowed Hawai’i to do just this until the 1970 census information became available because of a large transient population. In this instance, citizen displacement and the influx of a transient population because of the hurricanes should merit similar treatment.

If pre-clearance is granted by Justice, the new districts could be in place by next July at minimal expense. That’s still about two months before qualifying, leaving plenty of time for campaigning in the new districts.

Whether political considerations will allow this to happen is another matter. But fairness to the citizenry dictates that the state makes the effort to ensure that all voices get heard equally, justifying the redistricting.

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