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Democrats look set to follow a scorched earth strategy as a final tactic to try to influence the drawing of legislatures’ district boundaries, as they come to grips with the fact that they no longer call the tune when it comes to that function and with the change in leadership that they are undergoing.
Evidence of this accompanied the introduction of HB 42 by independent Michael Jackson. He’s not currently a Democrat, but was for many years until he felt the white-based hierarchy of the party disregarded too thoroughly the contributions and aspirations of blacks in it and chose to play a spoiler that possibly may have cost it a Congressional seat. And this introduction itself showed how things have changed in three years as to runs the party now.
This map actually found a way to draw a second majority black district in Louisiana, in an exercise in convolution that contorts so that it’s a nonstarter constitutionally. Managing to slice and dice five of the state’s seven major metropolitan areas in order to collect enough black voters into the two districts that makes some of the resulting six look like cancerous tumors growing into each other, it clearly fails the U.S. v. Hays standard that promulgates that districts cannot be drawn primarily with race in mind.
But that never was the intent of this exercise. As Jackson plainly admits, backed by other black Democrats and allied special interests, it’s all to threaten a legal challenge, as the first step in making a complaint to the federal government about a districting plan is to demonstrate that discrimination is occurring because more majority-minority districts can get drawn (formally a Section 2 challenge under the Voting Rights Act). All plans that did pass onto the floor of the House, unlike this one, provide only for one majority-minority district.
That the alternatives satisfy existing jurisprudence regarding redistricting and that because of population concentrations and dispersions only drawing districts with race as the primary criterion can produce more than one, normally would make this entire effort trivial and quickly forgotten. However, unfortunately the Department of Justice under the Pres. Barack Obama Administration has shown willingness to politicize elections administration and thereby might be expected to take up this lost cause, just because it can.
Of course, if such a challenge were launched against the state as a result of any single M/M map for Congress becoming law, the plaintiffs could not hope to win. Still, with the federal taxpayer footing the bill, it would cause spitefully extra expense by the state to defend it, even if it does not serve as a deterrent that may be a ploy to try to force the Republican-majority Legislature into accepting a plan more favorable to Democrats.
It accomplishes another purpose for its supporters, as another expression of the political muscle of the new leadership for Louisiana Democrats, its long-denied black members. Now that a majority of Democrat state Senate districts are M/M, as many blacks as whites serve as Democrat senators, almost as many blacks serve as whites as Democrat representatives in the state legislature, and almost a many blacks as whites are registered to vote as Democrats in Louisiana, their interests now will call the tune for Democrat politics in the state. And if that means fighting with no hope of winning just to aggravate the opposition and uselessly to drain taxpayer dollars in order to feel the thrill of exercising power, they will.
Unless more mature heads prevail and decide statesmanship trumps partisan spite, look for such a legal challenge as soon as preclearance concerning one of the GOP-preferred plans from Justice occurs (it failing to grant that would be an act of ideology too brazen even for it under Obama). Before then, Republicans should recognize this crude tactic and not fall into the trap of modifying their own perfectly constitutional plans to avoid this potential tantrum that makes elections no fairer and only would hurt the state’s citizens.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 07:45