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Elections set up redistricting for more GOP gains

A recent opinion offered that the results of the 2010 census likely would cost Louisiana a seat in the House, and that might be the 1st District seat of current Rep. and future Gov. Bobby Jindal. But it’s far more likely, because of the 2007 election results, that it will not be the Republican seat of the 1st that goes, but the Democrat 2nd or 3rd.

Understanding the consequences of the election and the timing of the census shows why the GOP should continue with six seats and the Democrats will drop to one by 2012. Because census data won’t be reported officially until the end of 2010 (its collection begins that year in March), the 2012 elections will be the first federal elections requiring redistricting. The decision that Louisiana will lose a seat will be made in the spring of 2011.

That will be just in time for the Legislature to begin the task of redistricting at all levels. As previously mentioned, a Republican governor – and there is one now with Jindal – can skillfully play off white and black legislators to eliminate a Democrat district. This is because Jindal holds the ultimate trump card – as governor, he can veto any redistricting bill put in front of him and has plenty of Republicans especially in the House to sustain that veto. Then, in 2012, after 2011 state elections but still in time for federal elections, if he can win reelection he’ll likely have a GOP House and maybe GOP Senate to finish things off. Thus, unless Jindal looks like he’s in real electoral trouble in 2011, he can force redistricting to Republicans’ favor.

The real prize for the GOP will be the 3rd district. As discussed previously, this might involve some crazy district boundaries to create a majority-black district based around New Orleans, but this way instead of collapsing three districts into two that would produce a marginal GOP district and a marginal Democrat district, they could create one solid Democrat and one solid Republican district. (This also would accomplish the aesthetic goal of keeping the state’s largest – probably – city mostly if not entirely in a single district.)

While the Senate which will have a healthy 24-15 Democrat majority further aiding Republicans in dismantling the 3rd is that the three state senators (Districts 19-21) who would find their districts lumped into the existing 7th (Lafayette on its eastern side) and 6th (Baton Rouge on its southern side) are term-limited, with them steadily becoming more Republican for state elections. These Democrats might be able to fight this in 2011, but they’ll be gone in 2012 and maybe replaced by Republicans.

More likely than the 1st disappearing, it will shift, giving up its western precincts to the 6th and probably jumping the lake to take St. Bernard Parish and the Westbank. The 2nd will take in Orleans Parish and heavily black areas of Jefferson Parish and shoot north perhaps to Baton Rouge. The 6th will shoot south in the opposite direction perhaps even into Jefferson and the 7th will expand to the east. Finally, the 7th may cede its western territory to the 4th (radiating from Shreveport) with the 4th pulls back its eastern boundaries to allow the 5th to expand. The 3rd disappears.

Much can happen in four years but one of the undiscussed consequences of Republican gains in this fall’s elections is that they have positioned the redistricting process to accelerate GOP gains in the 2011 and 2012 cycles.

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