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Self-serving Gallot redistricting plans dead on arrival

What’s most interesting about the redistricting plans submitted by Democrat state Rep. Rick Gallot, chairman of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee, is not that they are dead on arrival starting next week, but that they so nakedly outline his future political aspirations.

In each of three plans, Gallot creates a district that runs across north Louisiana, which encompasses his home base of Lincoln Parish, but avoids not much farther south Jackson Parish, home of Rep. Rodney Alexander, and takes in only the heavily black-populated areas of Natchitoches and Ouachita Parishes. He also in all draws an ink blot district that snakes up the Mississippi River from Orleans to East Baton Rouge Parishes, gulping in as many majority black precincts as possible. That creates some other odd-shaped districts in the area, and also a huge central district that incorporates strange bedfellows of parishes, but what these and all but the one with Lincoln Parish have in common is large overweighing white or black residents in them (at least 62 percent to as much as almost 80 percent).

That majority black district, with its shape as it is, might be a hard constitutional sell even with the imperative of a minority-majority district needed in the state, given it seems drawn primarily with race in mind, especially considering the shapes of the surrounding districts complementing it. Also, the central district might have a hard time showing it really keeps community of interests together. Finally, most of the state’s U.S. House members have chosen to work Gallot’s counterpart on the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, Republican state Sen. Bob Kostelka, apparently on plans not similar to Gallot’s. This makes Gallot’s long shots for approval by a majority GOP Legislature concerned about plan legality.

But that northernmost district is the most revealing. In all plans, it registers about a 54 white to 42 black percent balance (within the white proportion several percentage points representing Hispanics who are not counted out separately). In other words, were Gallot, who is black and term-limited, want to seek a Congressional seat, there’s no friendlier district that he could draw for his own fortunes that has any semblance of constitutionality.

Gallot actually lives (before redistricting) in Kostelka’s district, who is not term-limited and the numbers for which make difficult his election in it. Nor is this district expected to change much in demographic terms in the redistricting session, no matter how changed its borders might get. And for any other state office, probably even for judicial ones (these changes may be delayed a year since they do not require elections until 2012), again the numbers suggest that Gallot could not win any of these. So if he wants any chance at continuing his elected career at the state level or higher, this national district appears to be his best shot, with him hoping to get a near unanimous black vote, a majority of Hispanics, and just enough white liberals to be able to defeat (presumably wishing reelection in 2012) Republican Rep. John Fleming.

There always are going to be politics in redistricting, no matter how much a method for achieving it is designed to try to be nonpolitical. Part of the process of checks and balances weeds out the most blatant affronts to majority interests on behalf of some discrete interest. No doubt that balance will be achieved with the Legislature’s rejections of Gallot’s self-serving plans.

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