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24.3.11

Improper analysis, interpretation complicate LA redistricting

Today we’ll get a better idea whether the retreat forced upon Republican interests in the Louisiana House – apparently inspired by some misleading analysis and misinformation – turns out tactical or permanent, when the House and Governmental Affairs Committee reconvenes to consider the body’s redistricting of itself.

Yesterday, the panel narrowly voted, with the help of Republican state Reps. Brett Geymann and Greg Cromer, to have an additional minority/majority district established in Caddo Parish, bringing the total number of these under the current configuration of HB 1 that accomplishes redistricting to 30, up from 27 currently. This idea was rejected originally by its author Speaker Jim Tucker because he thought it would create M/M districts that may not elect minority members.

Testimony revealed one opinion that said this was not the case, given his best guesses about voting turnout in the 2008 presidential and 2010 Shreveport mayor’s contests. The fear was, because M/M districts of blacks typically have lower turnout and lower voting age populations as a greater proportion of the population than elsewhere is younger than 18, the voting eligible population only questionably might elect black representatives in all black M/M districts drawn in Caddo if four rather than three were present.

However, this analysis doesn’t exactly make for a valid comparison.

23.3.11

Misleading rhetoric stems from power loss frustration

Ever notice how among elected state Democrats whenever policy goes their way, we hear nothing about “partisanship,” but when it doesn’t, suddenly the worst of “partisanship” has descended upon the pristine Legislature? If the redistricting debate launched in the House is any indicator, expect to hear a lot of the latter rhetoric in the future.

Yesterday, House Democrats complained about Republican Speaker Jim Tucker’s redistricting plan for the body, which would increase the number of black majority districts from 27 to 29 – tantamount to guaranteeing Democrats seats given the propensity of black voters overwhelmingly to vote Democrat. But that’s not enough for the opposition, who thinks a 30th such seat can be squeezed out no matter how oddly districts end up getting shaped and how few communities of interest come together in a rational manner.

Democrat complainers also fault the special session’s HB 1 for creating two instances outside of New Orleans and a few around it where Democrat incumbents look to be forced to run together. Together, in the words of House Democrat Caucus Chairman John Bel Edwards, “It’s more partisan because everything the speaker wants to do creates an advantage for Republicans.”

Perhaps Edwards has trouble with reading comprehension, or maybe he just hasn’t read the bill,

22.3.11

New black Democrat majority to affect LA redistricting

It appears that contention over redistricting plans serves as the inaugural flexing of political muscle among Louisiana’s black elected Democrats, promoted as they are now from the back of the party’s bus to claiming the driver’s seat.

Lost in the numbers bandied about in redistricting plans and in the latest two Democrat-to-Republican switches in the state Senate is that black political interests now firmly control the legislative Democrats. As of now, even though in both chambers some white Democrats (and one white recent Republican convert) represent majority black districts, the fact is a majority of districts held by Democrats in both have black majorities, while 44 percent of Democrat representatives and 50 percent of Democrat senators are black.

This power arrangement profoundly will affect Democrats’ positioning on redistricting issues.

21.3.11

LA remap plans should clear unless politics interfere

As Louisiana embarks on redistricting, the lack of familiarity with the decennial process and the law involved can create much confusion. Hence, some words of clarity can help to explain the likelihood the chambers’ current plans coming to fruition.

First, unlike with the strict requirement of population equality for Congressional districts, that they have equiproportional populations “as nearly as is practicable” (stemming from Wesberry v. Sanders), making the courts very leery of any deviation in district populations, the standard for state and local districts has been of substantial equality, where there is “substantially equal state legislative representation” (from Reynolds v. Sims). In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of cases since 1964, never has set down a hard-and-fast rule on acceptable population deviation but has created a locus of around 10 percent, with extenuating circumstances allowing for even greater deviations to be upheld and lesser ones overturned.

Louisiana lawmakers set an internal target of five percent. However, legally it could go as high as 10 percent,