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Redistricting options point to LA Democrat House reduction

I suppose it’s never too early to start discussing redistricting in Louisiana, even if we’re a little more than a year from the actual census and two years from the process. Certainly a couple of interest groups agree with their recent contributions to the debate.

The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana came out with a plan that allegedly would remove “politics” from the process. It argues for creation of a “nonpartisan” body filled by presidents of state universities to select a plan, but did not endorse a specific plan. In contrast, the Louisiana Family Forum cut to the chase and produced one, assuming population decrease from the hurricane disasters of 2005 would remove a seat from the Louisiana House delegation, that essentially combined the Second and Third Districts and lopping off their outlying areas to surrounding districts.

But as I have argued elsewhere, the PAR plan is a pipe dream, it simply would not remove politics from the process, although with some alteration a process that balances political interests that would move redistricting, outside of the Legislature where it presently resides, could be accomplished. (The organization lists every salutary reference in the media to its activities on its website, which is why there’s no link to my critique on it.) In any event, the Legislature is highly unlikely to give away this power.

Recognizing this, the LFF plan gets to the heart of the matter with its presumed elimination of a seat. It fits the data well, follows judicial guidelines that districts within a state be compact, contiguous, and equiproportional, and therefore creates a massive problem for the state’s Democrats.

As mentioned elsewhere, the Third District represents somewhat of an outlier to the state’s political order with Democrat Charlie Melancon holding that position. Of course, it is not the biggest outlier since the election of Republican Anh “Joseph” Cao to the Second District who entirely contradicts this majority black Democrat district, an overwhelmingly Democrat district. So the combination of the two preserves every other district incumbent, all Republicans and all currently relatively new legislators who could be expected to stay a few more terms each, and packs Democrats into the second where, at best, a freshman Democrat with little influence will occupy the Second’s chair during the redistricting process.

But worse for Melancon, that occupant is likely to be a black Democrat who himself because of the population changes will be representing an endangered-for-elimination state legislative spot who will call upon his comrades in the Legislature to create a safe district for himself – an especially trenchant consideration given Cao’s upset win. Given the imperatives of geography and juridical considerations, the LFF plan is the optimal one to accomplish this given the lack of political heft a freshman would have to try to convince the Legislature to combine two districts that have GOP incumbents.

This makes Melancon the odd man out, with enough Republicans in the Legislature plus black Democrats willing to follow the path of least resistance, additionally discouraged from any other alternative by the presence of a Republican in the Governor’s Mansion with veto power over plans, to combine forces to accept something like the LFF plan. The significance of this is that the LFF has shown it can be done by the creation of a realistic plan.

This could change Melancon’s political calculations and make him willing to run in 2010 against GOP Sen. David Vitter. But he would give up sure reelection to another House term (thereby increasing future pension payments and lobbyist earning power) and at the end of 2012 when the redistricting would go into effect he will be 65 and perhaps ready to retire in any event. Melancon has said he has no plans to face off against Vitter and with Vitter looking stronger every day following his admission of a “serious sin” this may be too much of a gamble.

In the final analysis, the LFF plan presents not only a workable public policy solution, but also politically raises the odds that a single Democrat will continue to represent the state in the House after 2012.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice Posting