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Informed consensus predicts demise of Third District

Maybe Gov. Bobby Jindal isn’t going to interject himself into the redistricting process, but myself and several other Louisiana political scientists – all of whom who have studied and/or participated in the process – were willing to when we were part of a panel devoted to the topic at the Southern Political Science Association meeting in New Orleans last Friday.

Speculation about the placement of the state’s Congressional districts, with their necessity of paring from seven to six due to population loss, we considered to some degree. We concluded the matter mostly open-and-shut that today’s Third District, running from Acadian parishes on the west in a swath curling all the way across to the most southerly and easterly parts of the state, was a goner, its spoils divided among several existing districts. Several reasons suggested this:

· It will produce five districts favorable to (with four absolutely safe for) Republicans and one to (and safe absent scandal for) a black Democrat, an important consideration where roughly three-quarters of each legislative chamber is composed of Republicans and black Democrats, with a governor from the GOP

· The population distribution by race in the state makes it about impossible to draw any more than one minority/majority district, but the requirement that at least one majority/minority district get drawn makes New Orleans the epicenter of that district, menaing to increase in size to get its additional population it only can move south or west – and west, as well as the Northshore, are constrained by the necessity of drawing a separate district grabbing at least part of Jefferson Parish, boxed in as this (currently the First District) is by geography (Mississippi to the north and east)

· The Third District’s representative of days-old tenure, Jeff Landry, has no seniority compared to all other majority/majority district holders nor any time in elective office – important because the more senior members have built up contacts among state legislators and have leverage over them even in this earmark-less era, none of which Landry has delivered

· Without Jindal applying little to no pressure, the two most important figures in the decision will be House and Governmental Affairs and Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, respectively, Chairmen state Rep. Rick Gallot and state Sen. Bob Kostelka – both from north Louisiana and almost neighbors, so it is unlikely they would look favorably on any remapping that, as the continuance of anything like the Third would require, would put all of north Louisiana in one district, as it now is split between the Fourth and Fifth in essence creating double representation

· It also seems that any plan that keeps something like today’s Third around would create any of odd shapes, non-compact districts, and make strange bedfellows of different areas of the state, at least relative to a plan of carving up today’s Third – these nebulous judicial standards of contiguity, compactness, and community

· More future political careers also might be better served by the division of the Third; for example, the state Senate district of Neil Riser makes up a good chunk of today’s Fifth District and if he harbored progressive ambition he would find something that preserved something like the Third would split his voting base

We agreed that both politically, because there might be Republican control of both legislative chambers by the time the process runs its course, and from a legal/judicial standpoint, given the criteria set forth above plus as there seemed to be no concerns of lack of equiproportionality (districts with fairly equivalent populations) to draw such a plan, that the dismembering of the Third would occur. That doesn’t mean alternatives won’t be offered and debate won’t occur over them, but the dynamics clearly favor this plan.

As for Jindal, we suspect he hasn’t completely detached himself from the process. If he does have a preference, as long as the Legislature seems headed in that direction, he’ll stay out of the process. But if he does and for whatever reason the Legislature doesn’t appear to head in that direction, we may not have heard the last from him on this subject.

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