BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – The long-awaited census data will be released this week, setting in motion the redrawing of Louisiana’s legislative and judicial districts.
The maps are drawn every 10 years and they lay out who lawmakers represent in the capitol, as well as Congress, the BESE board and many other decision-making positions.
The census data is normally released in April but due to COVID, it’s been delayed multiple times. It is already known that there has been population loss in northern Louisiana and gains along the I-10/I-12 corridor, but by how much will be in the data. Those losses and gains could push legislative seats out or create new ones.
“It’s a lot of different maps that affect a lot… not only elected officials but also just people who are constituents,” Rep. John Stefanski said.
Rep. Ted James said in the past legislators looked to stack districts with demographics that would secure a seat and make sure it stays red or blue. For the Legislative Black Caucus, he said that is not their objective this time around.
“There have been so many issues. I think the folks that made those deals to create the current maps didn’t have to go through the battles that we’ve had to go through,” Rep. James said. “The members that actually represent those districts that are packed have been the first ones to recognize they’re going to have to lose some population or some neighborhoods.”
How the lines are drawn to get to the ideal 42,000 person mark for each House of Representatives district is a major debate. Some want it to follow geographic lines, some want to make sure neighborhoods are not split in half. It all comes down to what lawmakers think is fair and balanced. Each legislator will have their own idea of what their districts should look like demographically.
“We should be more focused on increasing representation here in Baton Rouge,” Rep. James said. “Not just in the legislature but in Congress. Our district shouldn’t be shared with New Orleans.”
After the failed attempt to override the governor’s vetoes last month, some fear it means if the governor doesn’t like a map then he won’t be challenged for a veto.
“I think it really does depend on the issue. So, and look, that’s not a challenge to the governor in any way, it’s just reality in my opinion of being in that body,” Rep. Stefanski said. “So I would say that first of all I hope that’s not even a conversation we have to have and if it becomes one I think it’s going to be a different conversation.”
Rep. Stefanski is heading the redistricting for the House. He said his focus is making the map legal and making fair districts. Data is to be released Thursday night and from there the talks between legislators begin on how to make these districts.
The special redistricting session is set to begin in early 2022.