A grassroots group, Fair Districts Louisiana, is helping to host a conference at LSU in January on the problem of politically gerrymandered district lines for Congress, the Legislature and other bodies.
We need ideas for a better process.
In Louisiana, as in most other states, the Legislature determines the electoral districts for congressional, state House and state Senate seats. The maps have prompted lawsuits in several states, amid growing criticism that political parties are using legislative control to give themselves unfair advantages.
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case challenging the way Wisconsin Republicans drew districts that could lead to changes across the country.
Whether the court finds for or against the Wisconsin result, our state should join more progressive states who have tried to limit the politics of remapping districts.
The Public Affairs Research Council pushed reforms on this issue in a 2010 report before the last national Census.
The approach of the 2020 Census makes it imperative that PAR's unheeded call last time should be on the agenda in Louisiana: "Although modern redistricting has been made more objective through the use of consultants and redistricting software, bodies responsible for redistricting still have great power to affect the types of people who can be elected by crafting districts that favor some more than others. It is imperative that redistricting be entrusted to those who are not directly affected by its outcomes and that the process be well controlled to limit the freedom that line drawers are given."
Some states have independent commissions to draw the lines, with legislators adopting them in up-or-down votes; others may set guidelines to ensure nonpolitical lines but leave the process in the staff or in political bodies.
What we should not have, as Stephen Kearny, a founder of Fair Districts Louisiana is a process in which politicians choose their constitutents instead of the other way around. "No matter how virtuous our politicians are, the conflict of interest in being able to choose your own voters in itself provokes bad behavior," Kearny recently told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
The LSU discussions hosted by the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs Jan. 19. We welcome those discussions and hope that a specific plan can emerge around which reformers can rally.
Politics in Louisiana is "the sport of kings," Huey P. Long is said to have exulted. But like Long and others after him, political leaders have forgotten that the game is about the people and not about them.